What Is an Affinity Diagram?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Considered one of the seven new management and planning tools, an affinity diagram helps you organize ideas and data into natural and meaningful relationships.

[Featured image] A UX designer is researching affinity diagrams on their laptop while holding a mug.

An affinity diagram, sometimes called an affinity map, is a tool that organizes ideas into natural and meaningful relationships after a brainstorming session. The finished product usually resembles a group of columns with headings and ideas placed beneath each one. 

An affinity diagram can lead to several beneficial outcomes. It may encourage conversation and team collaboration, provide a creative way to present information and help find new solutions to complex problems. Affinity diagrams can also help you analyze large amounts of data, get organized, and visualize information. 

Read more: User Experience (UX) Terms: A to Z Glossary

How to create an affinity diagram 

Any team that needs to organize large amounts of data can benefit from using affinity diagrams. Follow these steps to help to create an affinity diagram: 

1. Gather your team. 

When creating an affinity diagram, start by gathering a diverse team. Consider inviting people with unique backgrounds or working in different departments to provide new perspectives. 

2. Designate a facilitator.

Next, choose a facilitator. This should be someone who is a good leader and communicator to help guide the affinity diagram creation process. 

3. Gather your supplies.

Find a meeting place free from distractions for your team, and make sure everyone has supplies such as a pen and index cards or sticky notes.  

4. Brainstorm individually.

Once you've prepared for the process, your team can begin. Everyone should write down single ideas on their cards or sticky notes. They may also write other information like facts, drawings, quotes, or anything else that might affect the project. 

5. Organize the ideas.

Once everyone finishes brainstorming, gather all of the notes or cards and place them in one area. Draw one at a time and begin to form groups, placing the ideas in related groups. This is your affinity diagram. As you draw each card, ask how it relates to the previous one. If it is related, it can go into the same group. If not, you'll start a new group on the diagram. 

6. Find solutions.

Once you've added all of the cards or notes, your team can engage in a discussion about each group. This can lead to actionable solutions to the problem that brought you to this process in the first place.  

Related terms  

  • Service blueprint

  • Design sprint

  • Human factors

  • User flow

  • Pain points 

  • Information architecture 

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