Design team’s value identification and hierarchy



Designers and Stakeholders

Design Phase:







This teaching activity enables students to identify and name the core values they have as a group. It enables them to define their individual values and arrange them into group values through choosing which values are individual values and which values are group values. Finally, the group arranges the group’s values into a value hierarchy with primary and secondary values to be shared by the whole group or design team when designing products, systems and services.


If students are only able to take into consideration and orient themselves on the basis of their own individual value sets rather than a team’s shared value hierarchy, they run the risk of creating value tensions or conflicts within the team, the team’s design process and, subsequently, the final design.

This teaching activity helps students working in groups or teams to establish a common ground with shared and prioritised values. Furthermore, it helps students sort, hierarchise and interconnect values into a value hierarchy for the group, where some values are in the foreground (primary values) and other values are in the background (secondary values).

The value hierarchy is materialised in a the Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map enabling discussion and reflection between students in the design team – as well as between teacher(s) and the groups – or group and stakeholders – about how their values come together with stakeholders, design contexts, etc.

If students are not able to identify and arrange a shared and prioritised value hierarchy within their group or design team, they might end up with a design that is created based on a patchwork of more or less conflicting and unprioritized individual values, rather than a product integrating and expressing values in a prioritised and harmonious ways.

When students have established a shared and prioritised Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map, they are subsequently better able to negotiate, work with and integrate indirect and direct stakeholder values.

Generally, the Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map, is to be constructed before the group or the design team begins communicating and negotiating with stakeholders, in order for the design team to give stakeholders a clear and solid impression of the design team’s values.


After the teaching activity students will be able to:

  • identify and name the group’s core values,
  • define individual values and select and deselect individual values to choose which values should be included in the group’s values,
  • arrange the chosen group’s values into a value hierarchy with primary and secondary values.


  • Arrange settings for group work.
  • Print the Core values list (1 copy per student) and the Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map template (1 copy per group) and place them on the tables, together with post-its in two different colors (e.g. yellow and blue) and pens on the tables.
  • Divide the students into groups, if they are not already working in groups or design teams.


Step 1:

  • Give a short introduction on the importance of being conscious of your own (individual and group) values when designing products, systems, or services. The activity Introduction to ethics in values or Introduction to values in design can be used for inspiration.
  • Highlight different groups of values in the Core values list and discuss how different values constitute different attitudes and approaches to design that again might lead to radically different designs of the same product (e.g. a phone, social media platform or car).
  • Highlight the fact that different value prioritisations will impact the design process and designed product, system or service in different ways even if the values are the same (e.g. “fun” as a core value with “leadership” as underlying value ruled by fun – or “leadership” as core value and “fun” as underlying value ruled by leadership).
  • Walk through the materials on the tables and the different steps of the workshop.

Step 2:

  • Ask the students to go through the Core values list individually and select the 5-10 values that are most important to them (5 for bigger teams, 10 for smaller teams). Students write one value on each yellow post-it note so that they end up having 5-10 yellow post-it notes in front of them containing the human values that are most important to them as designers. In this part of the workshop they should not talk to each other, but work individually, identifying their own values.

Step 3:

  • Ask students in the team to take turns reading aloud the values on the post-it notes in front of them and placing them in the middle of the table. Tell the students that these values are no longer their individual values but the team’s shared pool of values.
  • Ask students to look at the team’s shared pool of values and sort the post-it notes into five categories sharing some common theme or attribute. Tell the students that it is okay to leave values behind that don’t fit the categories or are deemed of lesser importance.
  • Ask students to take the blue post-it notes – representing the core values of the team, and for each of the five categories write one core value on a blue post-it note that encapsulates the content of the category. Place the blue post-it note on top of the pile of yellow post-it notes in the category. Tell the students that it is fine if the value on the blue post-it is identical or different to values on a yellow post-it note in the category.
  • Ask students to prioritise the five core values (blue post-it notes) containing their underlying values (yellow post-it notes). Ask them to look at the five core values of the design team and then identify their “super value”, that is, the value that will be the most important in the design process. The core value will instruct the design work of the design team. Tell students that the super value should somehow encapsulate the spirit of the entire pool of values while considering the hierarchy of the five core values. Approximate duration: 10 minutes.
  • Ask students to transfer the supervalue, core (primary) values, and underlying (secondary) values to the Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map template. Tell them to write the name of their design team (or invent one) on top, write the super value in big capital letters under “Super value” and their core values in uppercase letters under “Core values” in the prioritised order. Tell the teams to go through their underlying values (yellow post-it notes) placed under each core value and insert underlying values that might add important nuances, dimensions or clarification to the meaning of the core value. The underlying values should be written between parentheses after the core values and in lowercase letters. Approximate duration: 10 minutes.

Step 4:

  • In class, ask each team to share their Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map including the super value and core values. Ask each team to reflect on why and how they ended up with these values and if something interesting emerged between the team members during the process.
  • In class, reflect on the significance and challenges of creating a shared value hierarchy and designing based on such a shared value hierarchy.

Step 5:

  • Talk to students about how the exercise and the value hierarchy can be used to guide the designers and design process as it moves forward.
  • Ask students to capture and share or upload their Designers’ Value Hierarchy Map.


To assess whether the intended learning outcomes were attained by the teaching activity the following assessment activities can be carried out (in class or after class).


Assess students' learning by asking them to record a group video on values (ipsative assessment) where they through a visual medium illustrate the value position they share as a group and how the teaching activity made them develop and come together as a values-led design team.

Assess students' learning by asking them to carry out an internal self-review amongst the group members (formative assessment) focusing on how they dealt with value negotiation and conflicts in the group to arrive at their design team’s value identification and hierarchy.


In the assessment activity ask students to focus on:

  • formulating how they moved from individual values to shared group values in a systematic and deliberate fashion,
  • describing how the design teams’ value hierarchy is organized the way it is and how prioritizations between values were made,
  • reflecting on how the design teams’ values might help them act as a responsible design team and impact their design practice.



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