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The 2x2 matrix is great to see where compromises exist and to see patterns between two variables. The goal is to help designers synthesize information gathered during the empathy phase and develop a clear problem statement.

Here's the guide:


  • Duration: 15-30 Min
  • Group Size: Small groups of 2-6

What, why and how?

What is it?

A 2X2 matrix is a tool that is used to help scaffold a conversation about insights and findings. Designers create a 2X2 matrix with opposing characteristics on each end of the spectrum (ie. cheap vs expensive see examples above). Then they sort their ideas/insights according to where they fall along the spectrum. The discussion of determining where to place each of the ideas will often lead to new insights and clarity.

Why use it?

A 2x2 matrix is tool to scaffold thinking and conversation about your users and problem space. Use it during your synthesis process to help you think about relationships between things or people. The hope is that insights will come out from using a 2x2. 2x2 matrices are also great to visually communicate a relationship you want to convey.

How can we use it?

Pick two spectra (one on each axis), draw a 2x2 matrix, and plot items in the map .The items could be product, objects, motivations, people, quotes, materials – any group of things that would be useful to explore. Put opposites on either end of each axis. You might place coffee drinkers on a matrix of passion for coffee (low-to-high) vs. economic status (rich-to-poor). Look for relationships by seeing where groups start to form. See what quadrants are very full or empty; where does the assumed correlation break down? The discussion that is spurred by trying to place items on the matrix is often as valuable as the producing the map itself. You may need to try a number of combinations of spectra to get one that is meaningful and informative. Try some combinations, even if you are not sure which is right – the first attempts will inform the ones to follow.

One common use for a 2x2 matrix is to consider the competitive landscape. In this case, an empty quadrant could signal a market opportunity (or a very bad idea).

Sample Lesson (10-30 min)

  • Materials: A variety of cereal boxes, tape, 4 blank sheets of paper
  • Set Up: Create a 2X2 matrix on the floor with tape (see visual on this page for examples). Place a blank sheet of paper at the end of each axis. As a class decide what to put on the end of each axis (ie Cheap vs expensive, Healthy vs Snack food etc.)
  • Place the boxes: Ask students to place the different boxes into the appropriate quadrant. Groups must agree on the appropriate quadrant for each box.
  • Discussion: After students have placed the boxes ask them the following questions: What did you learn from the process? Were there any quadrants that were left empty or only had one box? What might this quadrant represent... opportunity? What patterns did you find? Were there any boxes that were hard to place? Why?
  • Extension: After students have gone through a quick warm-up exercise with the cereal boxes challenge them to do the same exercise to sort insights that they have gained from an empathy build. Students will need to come up with their own axis. Develop a similar set of discussion questions for the students at the end of the "extension" portion of the exercise.
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