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Visual Planning & Mind Mapping: An Artist Friendly Approach to "Playing with A Plan"

I’m kicking off 2010 with a post help you turn your New Years resolutions into finished projects.

As an artist I’d rather be creating than planning. However, playing with a plan is essential for both finishing projects as well as making the most of the time and resources you have to create art. Planning is also essential for growing the business side of your artistic endeavors.

In parallel to being an artist, I’ve spent many years in corporate IT and Marketing so I’m no stranger to planning large complex projects. Even in the corporate world I’ve never been a fan of “linear” planning tools. Luckily, years back I discovered visual planning and mind mapping which are nice alternatives to more classic approaches to planning.

Embracing visual planning methodology has literally changed my life by allowing me to achieve more in less time freeing up more time for art.  These methods also work well on creative projects and I find planning in this fashion to be more nimble, organic, less time consuming, and more in line with my “artistic side”.

To illustrate what I’m talking about I’ve included a mindmap showing part of the planning for releasing my REBOOT album. Click the image at the top of the post to see a larger view. Here is the idea in a nutshel:

  • I started with a central idea – a plan to launch and album.
  • Things I need to finish are on branches.
  • Album production and distribution has a lifecycle. I’ve organized by major phases of my view of this lifecycle and organized supporting tasks as children to bigger ideas.
  • Using visual planning, this multi-month project fits on one sheet of paper that I can pin up and refer to influence what I do day-to-day. Branches are color coded and I used graphics to increase readability and recall.
  • As I finish items I check them off. This “burn down” gives me a sense of accomplishment as I move through the project.

I’ve been doing this a long time and don’t expect you to just jump in and get the same results with these methods instantly.  Like anything planning is a “craft” and you need to practice. I’ve included some links to help get you started and discover if this approach is right for you.

Learn About Visual Planning

Visual Planning Software
There are actually a lot of apps out there. Here are some of my favorites at different price points.

Mindmeister (Web, Mobile) – Free for Basic, $36/6 months Personal and on up. 

Best app if your mostly in a connected state and want to sync maps through web or work using a web-based interface or mobile devices. Has nice collaboration features as well.

Checkout my Mindmeister channel with notes on various topic relates to electronic music here.

Mind Maps

XMind (Desktop) Free for Standard/Plus $79/Pro $129 (or $79/year subscription). Click here to view the features for each level. If you want to try mind mapping for free and want to run it on a desktop, this is a good place to start. XMind paid version are quite fantastic and will scale all the way to help you do complex planning with Gantt charts. You could go with Freemind but XMind is way more refined.


iThoughts (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad) 
I think I’ve tried all the leading iPhone apps in this category. This one is hands down the best. I use this a lot when I'm in a disconnected state on my iPad. It has synch features so you can say sync files in a drop box and edited them on the desktop using Xmind.

Here is to 2010, playing with a plan, and wishing you finish many fantastic projects.

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer

Download/Buy my album REBOOT on Bandcamp
Buy on iTunes