Rose, Thorn, Bud

Maggie Ma
Research Methods 2021
2 min readFeb 7, 2021

Design Research Methods Spring 2021 | Maggie Ma

I chose to study the Rose, thorn, bud research method because it’s actually an activity my friends and I use often to update each other and stay connected in our group chat. Every night, we list our day’s rose (the good things that happened), bud (what we’re looking forward to), and thorn (challenges). I had no idea this was a legitimate research method, and so it was interesting to learn about how our fun group activity translates into the professional design world.

Rose, thorn, bud is a framework for identifying the positive (rose), the potential (bud), and the negative/problem (thorn). It allows designers to quickly analyze data by revealing focus areas, allowing the team to plan their next steps for further evaluation and exploration in the design process. It gives every team member an opportunity to participate and voice their honest and constructive opinions around difficult topics about the product’s success (or lack thereof).

Supplies for a Rose, thorn, bud activity include big wall space and sticky notes in three colors for each category. The steps of the design method are…

  1. Identify your topic of discussion.
  2. Each team member writes the strengths, challenges, and weaknesses on the three different colored sticky notes, each corresponding to a different category.
  3. Group the sticky notes on the wall space/whiteboard based on rose, thorn, or bud (a process called affinity mapping).
  4. Discuss!

In my research, I found an example of how the company Atomic, a custom software development and design company, uses the rose, thorn, bud design method. In particular, they use it when creating an experience diagram to “annotate breakpoints, opportunities for improvements, and things we liked that we didn’t want to accidentally break during the process of redesigning and improving something else.”

The history of this method lies with the Boy Scouts of America, who are routinely encouraged to identify their rose, thorn, and buds to create an environment of trust and honesty while emphasizing analytical problem-solving skills.

The rose, thorn, bud is a simple and versatile method to facilitate productive and honest discussions surrounding challenging and sensitive topics. It is highly insightful and can be done at any point/s throughout the research process to check-in with the team and reinforce design goals.

Rose (pink), Bud (green), Thorn (blue) for Lyft