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Good Designers Do "X": Affinity Grouping

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“Good Designers do “X”: Affinity Grouping” is one of three standalone activities created for the Good Designers do “X” collection. Good Designers do “X” is a set of 179 statements responding to the question, “When you talk to someone and say ‘good designers do “x”’, what are the top things you list?” from 34 individuals in the field of design research.

In “Good Designers do “X”: Affinity Grouping”, students will have the opportunity to broadly analyze expert designers’ ideas about what good designers do and reflect on the patterns that they see.

Why do this activity?

The purpose of this activity is to allow students to interact with the Good Designers do “X” collection of statements to glean insights that may help them in their work. Students have the opportunity to witness a broad set of design process models and design behaviors, and connect this to their personal design work.

This activity can help students:

Materials needed

If you would like this activity done physically:

If you would like this activity done virtually:

Note that the virtual version can be done both in online and in-person settings.

Setting up the activity

If you are using physical cards:

  1. Download the “Good Designers do ‘X’” card deck PDF
  2. Print this card deck on 8.5”x11” paper, double-sided lengthwise.
  3. Cut along the lines on each sheet of paper. You should get XXX cards per card deck.
  4. Pass out card decks as well as 10-15 sticky notes to each group of students.

If you are using a Miro board: (5 minutes preparation)

  1. Copy this template: Good Designers do “X” Template into your Miro account.
  2. The template has one set of all 179 statements. You may choose to have your class work on the entire deck as a whole or have separate Miro boards for each group. To make copies for each group, go your Miro homepage and duplicate this template.
  3. Inside the Miro board, click the “Share” button. In the popup, adjust your settings so that anyone with the link may edit the board.
  4. Send this link to your students.

Doing the activity

  1. Give students 20 minutes to read through the statements and affinity group them. Using the physical sticky notes or the text box function on Miro, have them give each affinity group a title.
  2. Give students 5 minutes to view the affinity diagram and select their top three statements or affinity group categories.
  3. Have a 15 minute classroom discussion on the affinity grouping activity. The following discussion questions may be used:
    1. What do you notice across these themes? Do you see anything missing? What would you add?
    2. How might you incorporate your top three statements / categories into your future design processes?
    3. What are some insights or takeaways you have about what “good designers” do?

Student Responses and Takeaways

Student responses
Miro Affinity Diagram
Affinity grouping for "Ethics"
Student takeaways

What struck you as interesting about this activity?

“I left with a lot of authors/resources to look into to learn about design motivations. I found it really interesting about designing with the intent to make the world better equitably and socially, but also understanding that even the smallest moments can have a big impact too.” — Student 4

Instructor Tips and Advice

Encourage students to connect with the collection: Often, we have seen that students can resonate deeply with the quotes when they imagine how it applies to their past work or how they want to apply it to their future work. You can have your students take time to jot down some of their favorite quotes, that way they can look back on them in the future.  

Try different groups of participants: The Design Signatures Team has done this activity with individual researchers and with classrooms and research groups of students. The resulting affinity groups are similar and different in interesting ways—for example, among individual researchers we looked at the groupings that overlapped between researchers and the groupings that were unique. If this activity were done in groups of your students rather than across the entire class, these similarities and differences can inspire conversation among your students.