BMI_Design Criteria Canvas

Design thinking canvas.

Benchmark your ideas. Every time.

Whether you’re designing a new Value PropositionBusiness Model, or even an entire strategy for the future, the design criteria canvas helps you to form the principles and benchmarks of the change you’re after. Design criteria are not formulated from thin air. Rather, design criteria incorporate information from your business, vision, customer research, cultural and economic context, and mindset that you have formed along the way.

How to use the design criteria canvas.

Don’t think of these criteria as simply features of your idea. They can and should be more than that. For example, a design criteria coming from your vision might be that your business must contribute to a greener planet. Or, maybe you want your customers to feel delighted; this is another design criterion. Does your new business idea need to generate a certain amount of revenue within three years? Chalk that up to more design criteria. In short, design criteria are there to make it easy to determine if you are on the right track.

The design criteria you capture will likely first come from the vision you’ve formulated with your team. You’ll find that some of the elements in that vision are so important that they are non-negotiable. Yes, that also means that some elements are a bit more flexible (maybe not totally flexible). To find the most important elements in your vision, use the “MoSCoW” method: categorize every element under “Must,” “Should,” “Could,” or “Won’t.” This will help you prioritize.

Once you’ve started this exercise, you might find that you need to adjust your vision slightly. This may prompt you to take a different direction. If that’s the case, adjust the design criteria so that they match the new direction. As you continue to evolve your point of view, you may need to add or update your design criteria.

Your step-by-step guide.

Before you start.

Arrange for a comfortable environment. Definitely not a meeting room. Have team members go over their own reasons for being in this project as well as the vision and ideas you have about it.


  • Arrange a relaxed, positive and private environment

  • Have markers (fine tip) and paper for everybody

  • Print or draw the canvas on a big sheet of paper

  • Have plenty of sticky notes and markers ready

1. Collect criteria.

Have team members come up with design criteria individually first, by writing them on a sticky note. Sources for design criteria can be: your vision canvas, things you learned when speaking to your (potential) customers, and validation outcomes. Besides those aspirative ideas, there are usually also some constraints to take into account: deliver a certain revenue, fit with a certain infrastructure, time limits, budgets, etc. Make sure to capture all of them.

Pro tip: Try to make your criteria as clear as possible, so that you and others will still understand what they mean in three months' time. split up more complex design criteria.

2. Map them on the canvas.

When each team member has a pile of design criteria, take turns to stick them on the canvas. Stick them where you think they should go first, we’ll organize them later. Have team members say why they think it is a design criterium and why it should be in the box they put it in. If you find duplicates just stick them on top of eachother.

When everything is on the board, take a step back. Have a short break. Did you miss anything? Forget something?

3. Organize and quanitfy.

Now, with the team, go over each sticky note and see what are the real non-negotiables. Be strict in this, nice to haves are nice to haves, nothing more! If you get stuck, try to compare sticky notes in the same box and see which ones are the least important. What if you did not meet that criterium? If that does not mean total failure, it’s not a non-negotiable.

Go over the Design Criteria, and make them S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). If necessary, replace the post-its with better defined ones. Keep a note of the SMART Design Critera.

Pro tip: Organizing on a canvas usually means clustering and removing things. Things that are not really important should be removed! If you want to keep them for later, have a parking lot.

4. Next steps.

Regularly revisit your design criteria, both as a touchstone for ideas and directions, and to see if they need to be updated because your point of view became more informed.


  • You have sanitized the design criteria by removing unimportant criteria. Use, e.g., voting.

  • You have spent time with your team to sharpen and quantify your criteria.

  • You’ve linked your design criteria with your vision.

  • You’ve quantified your design criteria: make them s.m.a.r.t. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).

  • Revisit your design criteria. Do they still make sense?