EX09 - Affinity Diagrams

Discovering the scent of a product

Time to rein in the data collected and allow themes to dictate where to go next.

Updated April 29, 2020

They say you can never have to much data, but there are moments when you need to deal with the data you have.

As you learned back in the UX course, Affinity Diagrams provide the flexible structure needed to mine for themes. Those themes won't just emerge on their own, so we'll need to add, combine, move, and discard information in a rapid manner.

This time, we're looking for ways to help Fresh Market bolster their business with a delivery service that is suddenly among the most required services out there due to COVID-19.

Some of the themes you uncover will undoubtable be service design oriented and others will be product design based. At this stage, it is more important to find themes than worry about the 'type' of design those concepts could be applied to.

Resources for review

Please use the following items to guide your exercise attempt:

Article/Video Source/Author
The craft of surfacing themes New Pragmatic
Collaboratively Sorting UX Findings and Design Ideas Nielsen Norman Group


Length: One-to-two hours to complete.

As illustrated in this chapter, Affinity Mapping is the latest in a series of information distillation exercises. By identifying the common themes that have emerged from your research, you provide yourself a strong foundation to begin building and testing possible solutions.

While most Affinity Mapping exercises conducted in a workplace are group activities, this exercise can be conducted as solo session because you have collected a vast amount of data on your own. Instructions on how to move forward in either scenario are supplied below.

Workshop session

You’ll be using a Figma template as the shared location for collaboration. Please make sure that all of your session participants are working on the same file. This becomes a large solo exercise if everyone is working on their own copy of the file.

To prepare for the session, you will conduct a pre-workshop review of the following assets:

  • User Interviews
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Stakeholder Interviews
  • Observational Research

From each of the items listed above, you should produce three observations (12 in all) that you will post for review during the workshop. There will be more work to do, but it will be performed as a group during the workshop.

Before the session, add these items to your Program Journal and post your Journal in the #Feedback-Loop channel for review.

Of note: You may notice some of your secondary observations being posted as primary observations by your peers. Resist the urge to change your previously chosen items. We’ll have a conversation about those items and that discussion can’t happen if everyone succumbs to the draw of groupthink.


Solo practitioners

It’s not uncommon for designers to create their own affinity maps, mainly when working on small teams or as solo entrepreneurs. The key is taking time to review the data collected and acknowledge the themes that surface.

Like the workshop participants above, you will conduct a pre-workshop review of the following assets:

  • User Interviews
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Stakeholder Interviews
  • Observational Research

Unlike the workshop participants, you can immediately progress to the Figma template. Once you have made a copy of the file for yourself you can begin surfacing your observations. With only the data you have gathered to provide content, there is no need to limit yourself to the top 12 observations. Be exhaustive with the items you post, but cap yourself at 30 minutes.

Once you finish posting your observations, you should begin grouping common elements together until three-to-five themes emerge. From these themes, construct action items that will be used in upcoming user persona and user stories exercises.


Update your Program Journal with a link to your Affinity Map and the action items you produced in this exercise. Post your Journal in the #Feedback-Loop channel for review.

Up next Fresh Market: User Personas

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