Create Your Own Head Map: A Tutorial

Jill K. Berry’s Head Maps are based on an old concept, the Phrenology Chart. Head maps were used in phrenology, a nineteenth century pseudoscience primarily based on the concept that personality characteristics are organized in the brain in sections. Jill, author of Personal Geographies, works with that concept, but of course, she makes the head map a lot more fun and a lot more personal. You can do the same!

In this project, Jill will lead you through the process of creating your own head map.

(This tutorial was previously published in the book Personal Geographies by Jill K. Berry, copyright 2011; republished here courtesy of




 Head Map

Before you begin this project, isolate an idea that is predominant inside your head, and then determine the opposite of this idea. You will create two overlaid maps using these ideas. The maps are overlaid because the combination creates the whole picture. Make up your own mind and map your head!

Inspired by…Phrenology Chart

Head maps were used in phrenology, a nineteenth century pseudoscience primarily based on the concept that personality characteristics are organized in the brain in sections. It was thought that the size of each section would shrink or grow depending upon the usage of its contents. Phrenologists believed you could decipher a person’s personality by the shapes and bumps on his or her head. The template at the end of this section is inspired by the sectioning tradition of phrenology and provides a jumping-off point to analyze the contents in your head.

My Map Story

The predominant idea of my head map is “My Idea of My Neighbor’s Day,” the opposite of which is “My Day.” I was forty-one when both of my kids were born, and being a stay-at-home mom was a huge adjustment from having a demanding career. Each day, I would walk my kids to school and gather with the other moms to watch them walk through the doors. It seemed to me that every mom, with the exception of me, was fit, groomed to perfection, cheerful, happily married and devoid of stress. Some of them had more kids than I did, and they balanced all of it with a smile on their faces and size six jeans.

I, on the other hand, was harried, always tired, running up and down the stairs all day and never well-dressed. At one point, this situation depressed me, but after creating the map and seeing how ridiculous it all was, I had to laugh. It was likely that the other moms felt far closer to how I did than I ever suspected.

Not all head maps are as lighthearted. When I teach this class, I listen to my students’ conversations as they discuss their predominant ideas and figure out their opposites. As I listen, I make a map of the their conversations called “Class Head.” In one class, my ears perked up when one student whispered, “What is the opposite of cancer?” The answer, we decided, was the rest of her journey that did not include cancer.

Materials and Tools

1—81⁄2″ × 11″ (21.5cm × 28cm) piece of cover weight paper
2—81⁄2″ × 11″ (21.5cm × 28cm) pieces of vellum
2 brads
black fine-tip permanent marker
head template
opaque crayons
paper hole punch

Step 1

Place the head template (see the end of this tutorial) on top of a piece of cover weight paper and two sheets of vellum on top of the template. Punch two holes in the tops of all four sheets at once. Remove one piece of vellum and set it aside. Fasten brads through the holes to hold the sheets together and keep them from sliding around as you work.

Step 2

Trace the head template onto the vellum using a black fine-tip permanent marker. Trace the grid if you desire.



Step 3

With a fine-tip permanent marker, draw symbols that represent your predominant thought. Remove the brads and the map you just finished.


Step 4

Turn the vellum over and color the symbols on the back of the vellum with opaque crayons. This creates a soft color under the sharp black of the pen and adds a playful element.



Step 5

Attach the blank sheet of vellum to the template and backing paper using the brads. Repeat Steps 1–4 to create a head map, this time using the opposite idea. Reattach all the pieces: the predominant idea on top, the opposite idea in the middle and the cover weight paper on the bottom.





















From Personal Geographies by Jill K. Berry, 2011; republished here courtesy of

To Learn more about or purchase Personal Geographies by Jill K. Berry, click here.

You might also enjoy:

Podcast: Jill K. Berry and Her Iris Projects

Another Podcast with The Fabulous Jill Berry

Sumi Resist Technique with Jill Berry

Silencing Your Inner Critic


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