What is a design sprint and why should you care?

A design sprint is a 6 stage step by step framework for solving big problems as a team in just one week. The sprint helps teams answer critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.

Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

Design thinking vs design sprint.

The design sprint would not be here if it was not for design thinking. The sprint uses design thinking methodologies and activities packed into a framework that can be executed within one week and has tangible and actionable results, unlike design thinking which is a methodology of working.

How it works

Design sprints are a method of fast user research, the framework allows teams to learn about their products early on before investing in development time and budget. Design sprints help with:

  1. Gain speed and focus on one problem for the week.
  2. Align diverse product teams and business stakeholders.
  3. Start a new project with a clear understanding and direction.
  4. Understand the target audience and their experience with your product.
  5. Validate or Invalidate the market and usability of ideas.
  6. Unpack project blockers and define a clear direction of moving forward.

Below are the 6 stages of the design sprint. These stages can be completed in 5,4 or 3 days depending on the type of sprint you want to run, what you are trying to solve and the budget for the sprint.

Understand

In the Understand phase, you will create a shared knowledge base across all participants. Using the Lightning Talk method, knowledge experts across the business are invited to articulate the problem space from business, user, competitor, and technological angles.

Understand Methods

Define

In the Define phase, the team evaluates everything they learned in the Understand phase to establish focus. This is done by defining the specific context and desired outcomes of potential solutions. The phase concludes by choosing a specific focus for your Sprint, as well as goals, success metrics, and signals.

Define Methods

Sketch

In the Sketch phase, the Design Sprint team generates and shares a broad range of ideas as individuals. You will start by looking for inspiration, such as solutions in alternative spaces. Then, each Design Sprint participant will individually generate ideas for consideration. From there, the team will narrow down ideas as a group to a single, well-articulated Solution Sketch per person.

Sketch Methods

Decide

In the Decide phase, the Design Sprint team finalizes the direction or concept to be prototyped. Each participant will share their Solution Sketch, and the team will find consensus on a single idea through decision-making exercises. The final direction will aim to address the Design Sprint focus.

Decide Methods

Prototype

In the Prototype phase, the Design Sprint team will work together to create a prototype of your concept. This is when many decisions are made around what exactly the concept is and includes. You will aim to create a prototype that is just real enough to validate, and you will do it really fast!

In the context of Design Sprint, we use the word “prototype” in a slightly different way than in standard product development. A Design Sprint prototype is a facade of the experience you have envisioned in the Sketch phase. You are building just what you need to make the prototype real enough to get an authentic response from a potential user in the Validate phase. This means mapping out the exact flow for the experience and only building the steps you want to test. There is no need to build a full functional back-end or to solve for every flow in your product.

You can think of your prototype as an experiment in order to test out a hypothesis. This means you have to think critically about what you will build in order to get the feedback you need to validate or invalidate your hypothesis. Anything can be prototyped in a day if it is clearly mapped out.

Prototype Methods

Validate

In the Validate phase, the Design Sprint team will put your concept in front of users – this is your moment of truth! You will gather feedback from users who interact with your prototype, and if relevant, you will conduct stakeholder and technical feasibility reviews. You’ll end your Sprint with a validated concept– or an invalidated concept to improve on. Either way, you’ve made progress.

Validate Methods

When are you running your first design sprint?

The step by step process of the design sprint is a great way to prototype and learn about your product early on in the design process. Sprints can be used as part of agile sprints as well as in waterfall working environments. If you are reading this you probably have interests in running your own design sprints or trying to figure out if sprints will fit in your work process or company structure. Let us chat and discuss how you can guarantee the success of your design sprint.