Rose, Bud, Thorn tool: Versatile way to identify potential of process

Nov 11th 2018

Rose, Bud, Thorn is a way of identifying things as fully developed, having potential, or posing challenges


Design is reflexive, measuring its own effectiveness through a constant iterative feedback loop. Although the first priority must always be quality testing with end users, there is also a need for interdisciplinary design and research teams to challenge the ideas while they are still emerging.

The Rose, Bud, Thorn tool helps hone in on strengths, opportunities and obstacles of a problem-solving process. It is a versatile instrument that can be used to consolidate a day’s events, a project entity, or iterations of a prototype.

We use the model to evaluate concepts that the team comes up with, and identify the super concept that would be taken forward.

Rose A fully-fledged new idea that is likely to achieve its desired outcomes

Bud Has the potential to become a rose, but needs further thought and development

Thorn Something that isn’t working, or that might work against the idea’s desired outcomes



Voting with Rose, Bud, Thorn

Using the tool in concept evaluation provides a framework for exploring the potential benefits of any new concept. The tool can pave the way for deciding on the concept to be developed.

  1. Start by taking the time to fully understand the idea that is being evaluated. The person who developed the idea can present it and then answer questions from the rest of the team.
  2. Allow time for the team to then consider their evaluation and discreetly select the card that they feel applies to this idea.
  3. At the same moment, all team members show their chosen cards.
  4. If there is disagreement between team members, ask those with different selections to explain their point of view and discuss.


The Rose, Bud, Thorn model can be used in various design phases to figure out what’s working and what’s not, and explore further areas of opportunity. It can trigger discussions that direct how designs ought to evolve.

The Rose, Bud Thorn Tool

Rose, Bud, Thorn Guidelines