The Project Canvas: Setting the Direction for Your Project's Success

Linh Tran, Thursday 19 January 2017 | Reading time: unknown

A clearly defined project from the very beginning is the key to project success. An instrument that helps you define your project is the Project Canvas method. Learn more about the Project Canvas in this blog post. 


A canvas is a visualization method which breaks an abstract idea into its basic components (‘building blocks’). The project canvas derives from the Business Model Canvas developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. The Business Model Canvas is used to visualize different business models in a structured way.

Project management took Osterwalder and Pigneur’s idea and applied it to projects. The Project Canvas enables you to break your project into its basic elements and then visualize and develop it.

Introducing: The project canvas

The project canvas is an ideal instrument for the project definition stage because of the clear and simple structuring of project elements. Ideally, the project manager and the project team develop the canvas together as part of a workshop to gain a common understanding of the project. It is particularly important for cross-departmental or intercultural teams to make sure that all team members have a clear understanding of the purpose and goals of the project.

There are several approaches and structuring methods for the Project Canvas that vary widely. We will take a closer look at the Project Canvas developed by the “Over the Fence – Projects Newly Discovered” initiative.


Over the Fence’s project canvas includes ten so-called ‘building blocks’. There are nine central blocks and two foundation blocks.

The nine central blocks

  • Budget: funds for the project team and other resources  
  • Team: core team members, extended team members, project manager
  • Resources: workplace, additional offices, tools and materials
  • Conditions: Stakeholder requirements
  • Risks and Chances: Uncertain or unforeseen events that can endanger or create more favorable conditions for the project (e.g. weather conditions for construction projects)
  • Milestones: Interim goals, important decisions, achievements 
  • Quality: Requirements and success factors
  • Result: Finished deliverable
  • Customer: Client, sponsor, owner, recipient

The two base blocks:

  • Time: This block is the foundation for all other blocks (start and end date of the project, fixed deadline)
  • Purpose: This block describes the reason or catalyst for the project and legitimizes it.

Example Project Canvas

The following project canvas is based on Over the Fence’s template and shows the development of a product brochure with the canvas method. 

Project Canvas: Developing a product brochure

Reference: Over the Fence;; Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Application of the Project Canvas

The project canvas’ main purpose is to define the project, which is usually done at the start of a project. It is also possible to do another project definition during the course of the project. Which is why there are many ways you can apply the project canvas:

  • Assessment and selection of project ideas before project start
  • Project canvas for the project application
  • Project canvas at the start of the project
  • Project canvas to control the project status


(Text by Kathrin Jungwirth, translated by Linh Tran)

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