Affinity Mapping


  • To help analyse your research when you have a lot of mixed data, such as user insights, brainstorm ideas, design issues, and ethnographic research. 
  • To help you define the problem and develop solutions.

When To Run This

  • After you’ve finished conducting research.
  • During Rapid Ideation — you can use it to group similar ideas.


1 hour


  • Previous research 
  • Or insights written on individual post-it notes
  • Or ideas on post-it notes


For broad approaches

  • A cross-disciplinary team of people, of differing seniority

For lean approaches

  • one person who’s fully across the project


  • Large Whiteboard
  • Or wall space
  • Post-it notes (yellow + blue)
  • Markers
  • Sticky dots



  • Choose your team (or person, if taking a lean approach). Your team should be across the project and be from different disciplines, genders, ages and status. Keep it to 6 people or less and include both external and internal stakeholders if you can.

  • Pick a facilitator to lead the discussion, provide background information, and take photos of the map as you work. For the lean approach, the organiser (you) can facilitate.

  • Find a large wall space or table in an area with few distractions to set out your affinity map.

  • Gather your insights or ideas, and write them on yellow post-it notes.

    1. If you’re analysing data, have the researchers write it up. These could be quotes, documented facts, interview stories, drawings, or observations.
    2. If you’re doing a brainstorm, use the ideas that you’ve come up with during this or previous sessions.

Action It:Action It:

  • Spread out your insights (yellow post-it notes) on your wall space in any order.

  • Group the similar or relevant ones into top level categories as a team. Discuss these and move the groupings into a hierarchy of importance, and then create sub-categories.

  • Name the groups. Use a blue post-it note to label each group with a theme that best describes it. List each group of notes vertically under their new name.

  • Review the naming and groups as a team to make sure that they’re labeled and placed properly.

  • Make insight statements. Take the names of the groups and come up with a sentence that summarises the insight.

  • Prioritise them by giving each person 3 dots to vote on which insights or themes they think are the most important based on the goals of the project. 

Next Steps:Next Steps:

  • Define your focus area. You can use your results as a starting point for your How Might We Statements or, if you were grouping ideas, the Impact/Effort Matrix can help you decide on which ones you want to focus on.



  • Each person can do grouping (step 6) individually so that everyone gets the opportunity to share their views without being influenced by others. 
  • It’s ok to rearrange the groups if it doesn’t make sense to you. You can discuss this as a team after grouping. 
  • Each idea or insight (post-it) should be a phrase or sentence that is understable to people who aren’t across the project.
  • If it makes sense, draw lines between individual notes or groups to show that they’re connected.
  • If you’re facilitating, make sure you’re being patient, using customer empathy, effective listening skills and people management skills.


It's Going Well When:

  • Your team can agree on important issues
  • You’re having breakthroughs
  • Complicated information that was ambiguous starts making sense
  • Your team is uses instinct to group ideas

Watch Out For:

  • Not enough guidance when there’s a lot of data to go through
  • The reasons behind insight groupings, they should have a solid background
  • How much time you’re using if there’s a lot of data