The affinity diagram, or KJ method (after its author, Kawakita Jiro), wasn't originally intended for quality management. Nonetheless, it has become one of the most widely used of the Japanese management and planning tools. The affinity diagram was developed to discovering meaningful groups of ideas within a raw list. In doing so, it is important to let the groupings emerge naturally, using the right side of the brain, rather than according to preordained categories.
Whether you're brainstorming ideas, trying to solve a problem or analyzing a situation, when you are dealing with lots of information from a variety of sources, you can end up spending a huge amount of time trying to assimilate all the little bits and pieces. Rather than letting the disjointed information get the better of you, you can use an affinity diagram to help you organize it.
Infographics seem to be the “in thing” in information design these days, and more technical writing instructors are beginning to include them as assignments in their classes. I first became interested in infographics when I started to see how the genre of graphs and charts had shifted from simplistic representations to ones embellished with graphics (as those originally shown in USA Today). I then saw this trend move to even more complex visual and verbal presentations of quantitative and qualitative information in newspapers, websites, and books.
In design, our resources are limited. Priorities become a necessity. We need to ensure we are working on the most important parts of the problem. How do we assess what is most important?
Affinity Diagramming is a very simple but powerful technique for grouping and understanding information. In particular, affinity diagramming provides a good way to identify and analyze issues. There are several variations of the technique.