Design Sprint Overview
The Design Sprint is a (typically 5-day) process for testing new ideas, validating products, and solving business problems. Originally created by the team at Google Ventures (GV), the Sprint framework was designed to condense the process of defining a problem, creating solutions, and testing with users into just one week.
By bringing together a small team of key stakeholders for this intensive period, we democratize the problem-solving process by placing participants on an equal footing, regardless of title, standing, or office politics. Each participant has equal opportunity to champion a solution to the problem at hand and share with the group; however, the ultimate decision-making power is placed in the hands of a single person (aptly named the Decider for the duration of the Sprint). The exercises in a Sprint are explicitly designed to minimize the often endless debate and conversation that slows down the traditional group brainstorm.
A variety of well-known companies and startups have used the Design Sprint process to help them execute quickly and pivot with purpose on their way to success, including: Uber, Slack, Blue Bottle Coffee, Flatiron Health, Airbnb, and more.
The Typical Design Sprint Process
While a Design Sprint itself is usually scheduled over a 1-week period (preferably a continuous Monday through Friday schedule), our team works with our clients over a 3-4 week period (and occasionally up to a full quarter to bring a product to market).
Week 1+: During the week or two prior to the scheduled Sprint, we will work with you and your key stakeholders to manage the preparation process and answer any questions the team may have in order to set expectations for the Sprint week.
Week 2; Sprint Week: This is a standard schedule for the Sprint week:
Design Sprint Day 1:
MORNING: Discuss and map the key problem. Outline challenges and opportunities.
AFTERNOON: Interviews with internal and external stakeholders.
Design Sprint Day 2:
MORNING: Solutions demos. Select an area of focus.
AFTERNOON: Ideation and individual solution sketching.
Design Sprint Day 3:
MORNING: Review and vote on presented solutions. Decide on ideas to prototype and test.
AFTERNOON: Storyboard the selected ideas in preparation for prototyping.
Design Sprint Day 4:
MORNING: Work as a team to prototype the selected solutions (possibly with outside help).
AFTERNOON: Finalize Prototypes; Dry run of user testing.
Design Sprint Day 5:
MORNING: User testing solutions with ~5 customers/key users.
AFTERNOON: Continue user testing; Discuss/define next steps.
Week 3: In the week following the Sprint, we will create a recap document that captures the Sprint process followed during the previous week (on a day-by-day basis) as well as all of the collateral and ideas generated by the participants. This will be delivered to you as reference material, and may provide the foundation for future Sprint activities. We will also be available for one or two follow-up calls to discuss next steps and help your team prepare to move forward based on the learnings from our Sprint.
Alternative & Iterative Sprints:
While a “standard” Design Sprint process follows the 5-day schedule outlined above, we can accommodate Sprint solutions ranging from one day to a full week (5 days). In addition, we offer design-intensive Sprint options where we handle the prototyping to ensure a beautiful, well-crafted deliverable for testing. If you’re looking to validate and launch a new product, quickly, we can work with you on a quarterly basis to move quickly from idea to in-market MVP.
We’re happy to work with you to solve your needs. Some options include:
3-Day, Solutions Sprint
During this shortened Sprint process, we focus our energies on understanding the core problem and outlining potential solutions. By the end of this 3-day process, clients will be in a position to champion solutions internally for user testing or development.
1-Day Immersion Session
This one-day work session is designed to align core stakeholders around a clear articulation of the problem at hand, leaving little room for debate or disagreement around the core customer segments and/or opportunities that the team should focus on in order to move forward.
At the end of a 5-day Sprint, user testing offers a clear indication of the efficacy of the prototyped solution. Often, further testing and iteration can be beneficial, but don’t require an additional 5-day process. A truncated Sprint can be utilized, providing clearer direction on how to move forward.
Who can benefit from the Sprint process?
The Design Sprint process can prove beneficial for any team looking to solve a problem, design a new product or service offering, or test an idea to prove its impact on their business. We have conducted Sprints focused on everything from technology and product/service development to logos and marketing ideas to company and product naming.
While originally created to help small teams learn and iterate quickly, Design Sprints aren’t limited to startups and technology companies. This framework can prove invaluable for teams in any size organization. For example, we have seen great success implementing Design Sprints to help corporate teams think entrepreneurially and move fast. By gathering concrete feedback from real users, the outcome of the Sprint process can provide stakeholders with the demonstrable evidence necessary to champion their ideas within a large organization.
Design Sprint Requirements
The Sprint team should consist of 3-7 stakeholders across relevant teams within your organization. One of the key roles in the Sprint is the Decider — this role should be assigned to the person in the group who is most prepared to take responsibility for hard choices throughout the Sprint process.
Due to the intensive nature of the process and the manner in which each day builds on the previous day’s work, it is ideal to have the members of the Sprint team involved throughout the entire week. Participants should make every effort to clear their schedules for the 5 days of the Sprint. If this is not possible, please make Design Sprint Consultants aware as early as possible so we can work together to schedule Sprint activities around the availability of key stakeholders.
In addition, it can be helpful to include additional participants specifically on Prototyping Day (typically Thursday of the Sprint) to help with the quality of the prototype. This may include designers, developers, data scientists, etc. These extra participants are not a requirement, but can help to improve the fidelity of the prototype used in testing on Friday.
The Sprint team will need a space that’s available without interruption for the duration of the Sprint week. White boards are hugely beneficial throughout the Sprint process; the selected space should either include white boards or at least clear wall space to accommodate a temporary solution. In addition, for the final days during which the team is conducting user testing, a small room for conducting interviews may be helpful.
Materials needed to facilitate the Sprint process include: sharpie markers, whiteboard markers, pens, pencils, blank white paper, post-it notes (more than you’d believe!) in varying sizes, tape, large & small dot stickers, etc.. These materials are available for order via Amazon; for ease we have created a concise list here.
User Testing Compensation
Depending on who is asked to participate in user testing on Friday, compensation may be warranted. (If testers are expected to be existing customers/partners, this may not be necessary.) It is generally acceptable to make these payments in the form of cash, cash gift cards, or retailer gift cards (such as Amazon). It is advised to have backup compensation available for those who show but aren’t needed.