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The Most Frequently Asked Questions about the Culture Design Canvas

What is the culture design canvas and how to use it? Everything you need to know to get you started.

By Gustavo Razzetti

September 24, 2020

As more and more corporate professionals, startups, and consultants continue to adopt the Culture Design Canvas, we receive a lot of comments and questions on how to get started. Here are the most common questions that people ask us. Share yours and we will answer it, too.

What is the Culture Design Canvas? How Can I Use It?

The Culture Design Canvas is a strategic tool for mapping, visualizing, designing, and evolving your company culture. It captures the culture of an organization in one page, facilitating alignment and uncovering areas for growth. This powerful visual tool helps understand the current state and define the desired culture in a simple way.

the culture design canvas a visual tool to map your company culture and design future proof workplace cultures

The CDC, for short, was created by Gustavo Razzetti to address the lack of a visual, in-depth tool to design company culture, just like the Business Model Canvas takes care of the business model.

Using the Culture Design Canvas benefits organizations by:

  • Encouraging everyone to be more purposeful about company culture
  • Driving clarity of what the organization stands for, making it easier to drive alignment
  • Helping see and understand what’s working (and not)
  • Providing an easy-to-use framework to improve workplace culture
  • Creating ongoing conversations about the state of the culture

What are the key applications?

There are three key ways to use the Culture Design Canvas:

1. Map current company culture:

Use the tool to capture the existing culture in one page. This helps drive clarity and alignment, as well as uncover gaps or areas for improvement. Read this step-by-step guide to mapping your company culture.

2. Design the desired culture:

Whether you are a startup, don’t have well-defined culture, or want to improve yours, the Culture Canvas is an ideation tool that helps improve each of the ten key elements of your culture.

3. Evolve your culture:

The Culture Design Canvas is a visual tool to keep your culture current and relevant. Use is to continually challenge what’s working and what’s not and to explore better possibilities.

Should I map the current or ideal culture?

Mapping the current state of your culture or designing the desired state are two different steps. Make sure that when you’re mapping the existing culture, you capture the real culture – not the ideal one.

It’s critical to visualize the company culture through the lens of the broader organization. It’s not meant to reflect how the CEO perceives the culture, but how everyone perceives it. This first step usually helps to uncover gaps across levels, countries, or departments.

Involving people throughout the process is crucial to avoid bias. Assembling the right team is essential to broaden perspectives during the session.

Does the layout of the Culture Design Canvas matter?

The ten building blocks are all interconnected. There is no such thing as purpose without core values. It doesn’t make sense to define core values if the company rules are not aligned.

The Culture Design Canvas was created based on the idea that company culture is, “the way we feel, think, and do things here.” Your culture shapes how people feel (emotions), think (mindset), and – most importantly – what they do and how they do it (behaviors).

Thus, the canvas structure includes the three key elements of culture:

The Core: Purpose, Core Values, Priorities, and Behaviors that are rewarded or punished

The Emotional Culture: Psychological Safety, Feedback, and Team Rituals

The Functional Culture: Rules & Norms, Meetings, and Decision-Making

We went through different iterations until landing on the current 10 building blocks. Since then, hundreds of thousands of users in large and mid-size corporations, start-ups, non-profits, and teams have been using it to evolve their culture.

What happens if I eliminate any of the building blocks?

Removing or changing one of the 10 building blocks of the canvas could still provide you with an overview of your company culture. However, you might be missing some of the elements that are critical to understanding and improving your organization. For example, if you eliminate “Decision-Making” you will avoid addressing a crucial component that will help make your organization more effective.

Netflix’s “freedom and responsibility” culture works not just because the company rewards a sustained “A” performance, but also because it gives people – not their managers – the authority to make decisions.

One of IKEA’s core values is “Give and take responsibility;” that will mean nothing without the “Never with your empty hands” rule that encourages employees to fix anything in the store regardless of their role or title.

By removing one of the building blocks you eliminate any key questions that will help you build a powerful culture.

What are other ways people are applying the canvas?

There are multiple ways to use the CDC beyond mapping or designing your culture. Recruiters apply to explore culture compatibility when evaluating candidates. Teams use it to design the culture. Startups use the canvas to set the right priorities from the start. Large companies use it to drive alignment and identify cultural gaps. Financial experts include a culture analysis to evaluate culture compatibility between two organizations during an M&A.

Read more about the different ways people are using the culture canvas.

What is the difference between a culture deck and The Culture Design Canvas?

A culture deck is a slideshow or document that breaks down your company’s culture into easy-to-digest pieces. A good culture deck doesn’t just capture the essence of the culture; it uses storytelling to inspire and engage the audience.

The Culture Design Canvas, on the other hand, is a one-page document that captures the same elements at a topline level. It’s simpler to understand and visualize what the company stands for by having the 10 building blocks together. However, it lacks the storytelling of most culture decks.

That’s why we like to combine both. After mapping the current culture or designing the future state, we create an in-depth document or culture deck that complements the Culture Design Canvas.

Do I need to pay to use the Culture Design Canvas?

We get asked this question very frequently. Nope. You can download and use the templates for free. However, certain rules apply.

You are free to use, copy, and distribute it but have the obligation to give appropriate credit (author name, copyright, and link to the original material/ license) and must indicate if any change was made. Include this link to refer to the tool.

To view a copy of this license, visit:

How can I learn how to use and facilitate the CDC?

Mastering the Culture Design Canvas requires training, practice, and time. Follow these steps:

Where can I download the PDF and Mural Templates?

Download the official Culture Design Canvas template (PDF – English)

Access the MURAL Template (English)

I hope the above frequently asked questions has helped better understand what is The Culture Design Canvas, its key benefits, and how to use it. Share your questions and we will add them – and the answers – to this article.

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