Card sort

Card Sort

Discover what’s most important to the people who’ll be using your design solution.

Difficulty: 1/5


15 min. tops! Don’t let this activity drag on for too long. Time caps keep energy and engagement levels high.


2–4 humans

Core Competency Connection

Sketch of a dragonfly on a green gradient background
Sketch of two bees on a yellow gradient background


  • Pre-made cards with a relevant word or image on them
  • Sticky notes
  • Black felt marker


Design your cards:

  • Mix abstract and concrete ideas.
  • Print cards on high quality card stock.
    They’ll be more durable and
    look more professional.

Set up the space:

  • Lay the cards on the table in no particular order in front of the person you’re designing for.
  • Provide enough sticky pads and felt markers for all observers.

The Process

Step 1: Places, everyone!

  •  Have the person you’re designing for sit in front of the cards.
  •  Ensure all observers have a clear view of the person you’re designing for as well as the cards.
  •  Equip all observers with one sticky pad and a black felt marker.

Step 2: Ready, set, action!

  •  Ask the person you’re designing for to sort the cards according to what is most important (or preferable) to them.
  •  Ask them to speak out loud as they are sorting the cards, explaining their reasoning.

Step 3: Observe & take notes

  •  Ask observers to write observations—one per sticky—as the person they’re designing for sorts the cards and explains their decisions.

Step 4: That’s a wrap!

  •  Have all observers gather their observations and discuss their findings. This will help determine what other methods will help fill gaps and clarify understandings.

Tips & Tricks

Free or inexpensive programs such as Piktochart, Canva and Noun Project make it easy to create high quality, professional printed or digital materials on the fly.

CTLI Staff

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