The research conducted will identify many, many individual issues. Different stakeholders will have overlapping issues. Different design team members will notice/focus on certain things. An affinity map allows these to be grouped into themes for further work.


what is it

The Reseach Affinity Map is a visual map of the key issues that are identified during research and empathy building.

why is it important

Co-creating the affinity map is a way for everyone in the wider design team to contribute to the research whilst grouping their observations and insights into key themes. This helps build empathy and buy-in from participants and is a powerful tool to show wider stakeholders that individual issues are part of the bigger, wider picture that the design challenge is addressing.

how to do it

  1. Position the Research Affinity Map on a wall space where the team can gather around it.
  2. Start by individually reviewing the research activity and making post-it note observations of insights, problems, pain-points, perceived opportunities. At this stage, these are not solutions or ideas for solutions. Note each point on a separate post-it note with a marker pen writing just enough for others to understand. Individually share your post-it notes and place them on the context map within the respective sections, explaining each as you do so. Group and collect similar comments together and remove duplicates. Create a new subsection within each section if any are identified.
  3. Post all the teams post it notes on the Affinity Map, making them all visible
  4. As a group silently rearrange the post-it notes into groups, with notes that seem to be related together. You may move a note that someone else has rearranged if you think it is appropriate.
  5. Continue until everyone is satisfied with the groupings. The groupings identify the key themes that have been identified during your research. You may be left with lone post-it notes but that is usual.
  6. Label each of the themes with a different colour post-it and draw a line or box around the grouping to identify and separate its content from the other groupings.
  7. Share the themes with other stakeholders to test and gain feedback.
  8. Write any key questions or discussion points on post-it notes, one per note, and post them in a separate area for later reference.
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