In the past few years, Alexander Osterwalder’s (and co-authors’) Business Model Canvas has become a ubiquitous tool among product designers, entrepreneurs, and business strategists of all stripes. As part of a class at SVA’s Products of Design called “Business Structures”—a course about business itself as a language and a design medium—we experimented with reimagining the canvas.
Working in teams, the first-year PoD students came up with the following design interventions. Certain themes arose across the templates:
1. Stating the question: The canvas’s “value proposition” provides an answer to the question of what a business contributes. But the canvas doesn’t explicitly hold a “how might we” question or an express statement of mission. Many students made space to state the problem, question, or opportunity.
2. The element of time: The canvas offers a snapshot of a strategy, but only at one point in time. In some cases, an element of the canvas—key partners or channels—is intended to change substantially as part of a company’s strategy. Incorporating some measure of the present and the future allows you to map those intended changes.
3. The structure of story: People often talk about where to start with the canvas, and many people start with the value proposition. Some teams took this instinct a step further and refashioned the canvas to have an explicitly linear, storytelling, or conversational structure.
One of the things I noticed across the assignments was the potential, Edward-Tufte-style, to consider ways in which the canvas can store and quickly communicate more visual information. For instance, if the sides of the cost and revenue boxes were taken as an y-axis of money and the x-axis of time, you could eyeball earnings inflection points. Again, that intervention incorporates the dimension of time.
It was, as always, fun to see business in the hands of designers. I hope you enjoy their work, and let us know what you think!
— Amy Whitaker, faculty (with thanks to Julia Lindpaintner for blogposting, and to Cody Pfleging and Xumeng Mou, the TAs).
The Value-Centric Canvas
Every day we read about the future of connected, value-based business models. With that in mind, Alexa Forney, Xumeng Mou and Cody Pfleging created a value-centric business model template, particularly given the shift in the relative value of artifacts and experiences. By framing the traditional supply chain in three distinct phases—Value Creation, Value, and Value Delivery—businesses can assess their processes holistically and discover untapped channels and opportunities.
The Conscientious Edition
The Conscientious Edition of the Business Model Canvas was created by Arjun Kalyanpur and Jenna Witzleben with the goal of encouraging morality and ethics in business. Inspired by companies like Patagonia, the team augmented the existing canvas by incorporating mission and values. Further, they worked to restructure the language around "customer segments", as many ethical and progressive companies view their audience as more than just customers, using terms such as collaborators, supporters, advocates, and more.
Let’s Talk Business
Designed by Josh Corn, Doug Fertig, and Julia Lindpaintner, “Let's Talk Business” turns the business model canvas into a conversation. Thorough yet approachable, the template encourages would-be entrepreneurs develop well-rounded and realistic business plans by posing questions from both the cynic and the optimist’s points of view.
Present vs. Future
Designed by Gahee Kang and Oscar Pipson, ‘Present vs Future’ adds the dimension of time to the business model canvas, comparing the current state of business operations to the potential future state. By exploring both business states concurrently, a business is forced to create dynamic strategies that connect the present to the future and avoids the pitfalls of a short-term perspective. In this way, the ‘Present vs Future’ canvas model prompts businesses to consider future markets, long term goals, exit strategies, market externalities, security, risk, growth and diversification amongst a host of other business concepts.
The Spatial Business Model Canvas
Designers Dayoung Hong, Ailun Sai, and Karen Vellensky reorganized Osterwalder's business model canvas to focus on the physical relationships between each category on the page. Making the connections between different aspects of the business model more visually apparent helps users as they consider risks and opportunities throughout.
The Biz Whiz Canvas Shiz
The Biz Whiz Canvas Shiz takes a static business canvas model and converts it to a flow that starts with defining the business goal, so that the value proposition drives the major decisions. Designers Andrea Cameron, Michael Kenney, and Will Lentz structured the flow so that the upfront answers guide the user through the subsequent parts. In addition, they ensured that the vocabulary is both descriptive and accessible, so that anyone, regardless of experience, can successfully engage in creating a business model.