Page tree

What is Affinity Diagramming?

Creativity begins with an affinity for something….” Howard Gardner.  An Affinity Diagram is a visual tool created that shows the relationships between ideas and observations. It takes information received through observations (seen or heard such as in Contextual Inquiries), speaking with end users (as in Interviews) or via surveys. It is a method of externalizing information; getting that information from you and your team’s minds and into a visual format where it can be analyzed and acted upon.

Why use Affinity Diagramming?

During the problem solving or creative process, information overload can be a very real challenge for designers, project managers or any of the other actors involved in a project or business. When you try to consider too much information at once, mistakes become inevitable and important details are neglected. Affinity Diagramming allows you to record all of the ideas, observations and data you and your team have collected. Thereby freeing up mental space and energy to analyze your findings and make decisions. It also allows you to clearly see patterns, issues and relations that were previously unclear or unnoticed.

How Do We Create an Affinity Diagram?

In order for Affinity Diagramming to produce the most helpful results, it is best if you gather a multi-disciplinary team to help you record and group the information. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Record all of the data, ideas and observations on post-it notes or note cards. Be sure there is only one idea per post-it or note cards
  2. Place all of the ideas on a large surface such as a whiteboard, wall or table.
  3. Look for relations between the ideas and sort them into groups
  4. Name the large groups based upon the common themes, you’ve noticed. Put the title of each group at the top and rearrange ideas to match the assigned themes if necessary.
  5. Rephrase the themes into a sentence that clearly communicate the insights and can be used to form your “How Might We” statements.


Affinity Diagram- Design Thinking Book

Affinity Mapping - Innovation Champions


  • Synthesize Phase




  • List as many ideas, observations and insights as possible, in the beginning. You can always remove notes later.
  • Use a different color post-it note above each group to differentiate between the key insights you find.
  • Take pictures of the final Affinity Diagram for circulation and reference later.