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4 Day Design Sprint: Accelerate Success in a Streamlined Process

Design Sprints > 4 Day Design Sprint: Accelerate Success in a Streamlined Process

โœ๏ธ Written by Daniel Cooper on July 21st 2023 (Updated - August 22nd 2023)

This is a fast-paced, collaborative, and intensive method for designing and testing innovative solutions within a short period. By bringing together designers, product managers, and stakeholders, this approach allows teams to rapidly explore various ideas and determine the most effective path forward. Validated within numerous startups and tech giants, it has become a popular alternative to the traditional 5-days, offering the same benefits within a compressed timeframe.

Within this process, teams work closely and efficiently to conquer each phase, from goal definition to user reviews. Utilizing brainstorming, sketching, decision-making, and rapid prototyping, it enables workgroups to quickly identify and address any potential issues in the design process, saving valuable time and resources. The final day focuses on user testing, which allows teams to validate their ideas and gather genuine, actionable feedback for further iteration and improvement.

Key Takeaways

  • 4-day design sprints enable teams to rapidly design and test innovations in a collaborative environment
  • The process consists of efficiently structured phases, from ideation to user reviews
  • Utilizing this methodology can save time and resources while delivering valuable insights

The 4-Day Design Sprint

A diverse group of people sit at a table, smiling and pointing at a whiteboard with post-it notes and sketches. The room is brightly lit with large windows in the background. Camera angle: over the shoulder.

Gather round, brave souls embarking on the quest for a success! This abridged journey combines the intensity of the traditional 5-day run, making it a swift and powerful method for those dauntless innovation heroic teams.

Inspired by the legendary Jake Knapp himself, the 4-day guide is similar to the original 5-day version, but with a few tweaks. Its shorter design sprint adventure concentrates your efforts while keeping the integrity of the results intact. Fear not, brave adventurers!

There are different versions of short design sprints, with each company customising their sessions. This gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.

The Swift Journey

Day 1: Prepare for an action-packed day, for you shall map the goal and generate ideas in a single adventure! This combination of tasks will require valiant effort and focus, but it shall be worth the accomplishment.

Day 2: On this day, sketch solutions fearlessly! Conjure your creativity and power to bring forth the most brilliant designs, just as your forebears have done before in their sprints.

Day 3: Prepare for a day of decision-making, where you shall choose the strongest sketches and separate the wheat from the chaff. You and your fellow champions will move forward with certainty and precision.

Day 4: Finally, honorably build a realistic prototype with the combined team effort. Unite your skills and draw upon the wisdom gathered thus far, for the culmination of your journey approaches.

On the morn of the fifth day, you shall test your hard-fought prototype with potential customers, capturing precious feedback and paving the way for future success. The 4-day sprint may have been swift, but your courage, knowledge, and clear-headedness shall guide you to victory.

Remember, champions, the 4-day run is a beacon of hope for innovation mystic teams courageously seeking to answer critical business questions and validate ideas. The challenge lies in its swift journey, but the rewards are bountiful.

Then took customer researchโ€”which can typically take weeks to plan and often delivers confusing resultsโ€”and figured out a way to get crystal clear results in just one day. Without it, you're just doing a long brainstorming meeting.

I've heard of people stretching their sprint to longer than a week, due to scheduling and resourcing issues or simply because that's how their processes are run or how the teams are organised.

But it is resource and time intensive โ€” at least for a week. You'll need to clear everyone's schedule, from the management to designers and developers to marketers, and basically locking everyone up in a room for 5 days.

Then, each person will sketch, following a four-step process that emphasizes critical thinking over artistry. This adds story-centered design, an unconventional approach that focuses on the customer journey instead of individual features or technologies.

You're basically iterating for a better solution, to get it closer to what the user wants and needs, taking in the feedback and results from previous sessions.

Thousands of teams around the world have run sprints in startups (like Slack and Airbnb), big companies (like LEGO and Google), agencies (like IDEO and McKinsey), schools (like Stanford and Columbia), governments (like the UK and the City of Chicago), and even museums (like the British Museum and the Smithsonian).

You will be mapping the goal and generating ideas on the same day, but the preparation for it would run weeks before.

Preparation Phase

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Assembling the Team

Gather mercenaries (developers), and other essential members in your team for a successful Design Sprint. It's crucial to have a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and expertise to contribute an array of perspectives. Don't forget to include a dedicated dungeon master (facilitator)! This mighty individual shall guide the team through each step, keeping everyone on track and ensuring clear communication.

Expert Interview

Before diving into the challenge, it's a brilliant idea to conduct Expert Interviews. This activity brings in invaluable insights from domain experts within and outside your organization to ensure a deeper understanding of the problem. Experts might come from various departments, like development, HR, or resource management. Their experience and wisdom substantially improve the team's foundation for conquering the challenge.

Defining the Challenge

Last but not least, defining the challenge jointly is vital. The team shall align on the main problem statement and its importance. It's essential to be as specific and focused as possible while being open to adaptation as new information and insights are discovered. After setting a clear and common goal, it's time to embark on the Design Sprint journey.

In summary, the Preparation Phase is all about forming a well-rounded team, gathering expert knowledge, and defining a clear challenge to tackle. Properly laying out these foundational stones will lead the way to a dynamic, effective, and efficient Design Sprint experience.

๐Ÿ“– Read More: Google's design sprint kit

Day 1: Ideation and Sketching

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Brainstorming Solutions

On the first day of a 4-day run, teams dive head first into brainstorming solutions. This process begins with expert interviews and lightning demos to gather inspiration and contextual knowledge. Expert interviews involve engaging specialists from within the organization and beyond, to share their knowledge on the challenges. This helps close gaps in understanding and ensures a strong foundation for tackling the problem.

Lightning demos are short presentations showcasing inspiring ideas, often from competitor products or other industries. For instance, a team looking to improve a fitness app can examine how Nike approaches user progress in their app and adapt relevant elements to their solution. These sessions play an essential role in the design sprint by kick-starting the brainstorming phase with a burst of creativity and innovation.

Day 1 consists of activities you would do in the first two days of a standard sprint. Focus on measuring results with the key metrics from each business.

Individual Sketching

After amassing a cornucopia of inspiring inputs, the team engages in individual sketching sessions. The goal here is to use the knowledge gathered during the brainstorming phase to come up with tangible ideas, capturing them in quick sketches. Through this process, each team member distills their thoughts into concrete, visual representations of the solution.

Sketches have several advantages in this stage of the design sprint:

  • Fast and efficient: They allow team members to quickly communicate high-level concepts without getting bogged down in the minutiae.
  • Easy to understand: Sketches help to visualize complex ideas, making them more accessible for discussion and feedback.
  • Flexible: Hand-drawn sketches are perfect for iterating and refining ideas, allowing the team to adapt and improve them as needed.

Ultimately, the focus on day one of a 4-day quest should revolve around ideation and sketching to develop creative solutions that address the complex challenges identified. By grounding the creative process in actual data and examples, teams can set the stage for success as they move forward.

With new ideas in mind, each participant tries to produce individually multiple sketches that would represent the future solution.

Daniel Cooper

Daniel Cooper

Managing Partner & Dungeon Master

Did you know?
During a sprint, distractions are banished!

This concentrated focus lets the team make significant progress in a short period.

Day 2: Decisions and Storyboarding

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The Decider's Role

The Decider plays a crucial role in the design sprint process, serving as the person who makes the final calls on important decisions. Their primary responsibility is to keep the objectives in mind, review all ideas presented, and choose the best ones to bring to life. This helps maintain focus and ensures everyone stays on track.

Consolidating Ideas

On Day 2, the team gathers to review their ideas from the previous day. This is done through a heat map activity where everyone votes on their favorite concepts using stickers. This process allows all voices to be heard and combines the diverse range of ideas to create unique and comprehensive solutions.

During this phase, the team can clearly see the group's preferences and top solutions. It's important to remain open and consider merging parts from different ideas where necessary. These decisions should be made with the Decider's input and the team's shared understanding.

Storyboard Creation

Once the top ideas have been consolidated, it's time for the storyboard process. The team works together to create a detailed visual plan of how the selected concept will unfold. This step is essential for understanding how users will interact with the solution, and helps the team pinpoint any potential pitfalls or areas that can be improved.

The storyboard should cover the entire user journey, including key interaction points and the expected outcomes. This planning phase sets up the upcoming workshops and clarifies the next steps for Day 3 and beyond.

Keep in mind, the aim of Day 2 is to make informed decisions and gather valuable insights from the team, ensuring the solution is both meaningful and achievable. With the proper focus on the Decider's role of consolidating ideas, and storyboard creation, the team can be confident in moving forward with a solid foundation for success.

Day 3: Prototyping

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Rapid Prototyping

In this crucial day, the team gathers to quickly transform their ideas into tangible, testable prototypes. Instead of spending weeks or months perfecting a solution, Rapid Prototyping focuses on iterating through multiple versions to arrive at the most effective prototype.

Using a variety of tools and techniques like paper, templates, and iteration, the team works together to create a user-validated prototype that addresses the problem at hand. The team's product owners are involved in the process, ensuring that the prototype aligns with their visions and goals.

During prototyping, the use of post-its, stickers, and timers helps the team stay organized and focused on their task. The goal of this process is to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that can be tested and refined based on real user feedback.

By Wednesday morning, you and your team will have a stack of solutions.

Tools for Prototyping

A variety of tools are available to make prototyping efficient and effective. Some popular options include:

  • Miro: online whiteboard tool that allows teams to collaborate in real time, facilitating the creation and editing of prototypes.
  • Keynote: A presentation software by Apple that can be used to quickly create high-fidelity prototypes with animations and interactions.
  • Design Thinking: A methodology for solving problems by empathizing with users, defining problems, and designing, prototyping, and testing solutions. Design Thinking can be applied in various prototyping tools to ensure an effective and user-centered design process.

It's essential to choose the right tool for your team and project needs, as it can greatly impact the success of your prototype. Remember, the focus should be on quickly iterate and improve the prototype based on user reviews.

Day 4: User Testing and Feedback

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Conducting User Testing

On the final day of the enchanted design sprint, testing becomes the main focus. In this critical stage, the demo created and tested with real users to gather valuable insights and feedback. Before testing begins, establish a clear hypothesis that you want to validate. This will guide the process and ensure the team has a focused goal.

Create an interview script tailored to the target users and the demo's specific features. This script should include questions that help determine if the users find the feature both useful and usable. Throughout the testing phase, it is important to be aware of your own expertise, as it may influence your interpretation of users' responses. Ideally, include a neutral facilitator to conduct the test and help prevent bias.

When it comes to conducting the actual user tests, invite a diverse group of users to minimize the risk of skewed results. Direct the users through the demo, encouraging them to think aloud as they interact with the design. Ensure that stakeholders and team members observe the tests to capture their insights.

You'll also make sure everything is ready for Friday's test by confirming the schedule, reviewing the prototype, and writing an interview script

Analysis of Test Results

After the testing sessions, it's time to analyze the information gathered from the users. The main purpose of this analysis is to identify patterns and trends across the user tests. It is essential to remain neutral and let the data guide interpretations.

To achieve clarity, organize the data into a format that facilitates easy and meaningful interpretation. This can include tools like tables, bullet points, or graphs. Pay close attention to both positive and negative aspects to ensure an unbiased evaluation of the test results.

Once the trends and patterns have been identified, relating it back to the original hypothesis will help the team understand if it has been validated. Remain confident in the process and be prepared to adapt and iterate based on the findings.

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Remote and Condensed Sprints

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Adapting to Remote Sprints

Ah, the remote world we live in! As you might have guessed, running a 4-days remotely can be quite challenging. Fear not, for we can overcome these challenges with some effective tactics! First off, ensure that everyone's on the same page by clearly outlining tasks and using digital collaboration tools. Keep the spirit high by hosting daily video meetings to share updates, review sketches, and make decisions. And remember, it's crucial to prepare earlyโ€”logistics matter in the remote realm!

1-Day and 2-Hour Sprints

You might wonder, can we go even faster than a 4-days? Well, indeed we can! Companies like Relab have customized even shorter versions like 1-day and 2-hour sprints. While they may seem overwhelming, these condensed sprints are like a powerful blast of decision-making energy.

  • 1-Day Sprints: These sprints focus on a single essential question, working through design, prototyping, and testing super swiftly. They're ideal when you simply need a quick solution or concept validation.
  • 2-Hour Sprints: Now, these are the true lightning rounds of the design world. They work best for adventuring teams with minimal time or when quick brainstorming sessions are needed. Just keep in mind that they might not result in fully developed solutions.

So, there you have it! The many options of remote and condensed sprints arranged for you like a mighty cache of design possibilities. May they serve you well on your path towards innovation!

Marketing and Launch Considerations

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Leveraging Design Sprint Output

So, you've completed the fast-paced and focused 4-day run battle. It's time to gear up for marketing and launch efforts. Take stock of the valuable output, and identify how they can be translated into selling points for your target audience.

It's crucial for marketers to understand the key features and benefits of the final product, to efficiently communicate them in promotional materials and social media campaigns. Gather your team for a brainstorming meeting to outline the unique positioning and advantages of your product, based on the design sprint output.

Review the ideas generated during the decide and storyboard phase to find compelling narratives and insights to strengthen your marketing. Offer consistent messaging across all channels to support engagement and create a buzz leading up to the launch.

Ensuring Successful Market Launch

Now that you know the selling points and have a solid marketing step-by-step plan, it's time for an iterative process, involving management to make sure you're on the right path.

Get valuable feedback from test users, and swiftly incorporate suggestions into product refinements and marketing adjustments. Remember, continuous improvement is the name of the game! Maintain clear communication among team members, making sure roles and goals are well-understood.

Assurance of a successful market launch lies in how effectively you leverage outputs and blend marketing, management, and development perspectives. Stay confident, be knowledgeable, keep things neutral, and pursue clarity every step of the way!

If you are following the Sprint book, then you know that's proposed as an activity for morning, but during my first run it took us more than expected to clarify the role, and the task each person would have.

If your solution has mixed feedback: you're on a right track, and you know how to move forward. Since it was developed in Google Ventures to help tech startups, it was naturally tailored to their needs.


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Agile methodologies have truly revolutionized our approach to product development, and the 4-day run Battle takes it a step further, providing a fast and efficient way to tackle design challenges head-on. By harnessing the power of collaboration, it allows organizations to create innovative solutions in a speedy fashion.

Having a tool like Slack for communication streamlines the epic design sprint process, ensuring that information is shared effectively and that all team members stay in the loop. The use of a platform like Medium to share your experience and learnings helps spread the knowledge within the community, promoting a confident, knowledgeable environment for everyone involved.

Throughout the design sprint, maintaining a neutral and clear tone is essential for keeping discussions focused and ensuring that all voices are heard. A confident attitude empowers team members to bring big ideas to the table while remaining grounded in the reality of what can be accomplished in the short run timeframe.

In conclusion, the 4-day run provides a valuable framework for rapid product development, fostering cross-team collaboration and a positive environment. Remember to communicate openly, embrace agile principles, and never shy away from pushing boundaries in the pursuit of groundbreaking solutions. With this mindset, the possibilities for innovation are boundless.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the key phases of a 4-day design sprint?

A 4-day run typically consists of these key phases:

  1. Define the problem: On Day 1, the team focuses on understanding the big challenge and producing solutions.
  2. Decide and storyboard: On Day 2, the team decides on a solution and creates a storyboard of the prototype.
  3. Prototype: On Day 3, the team builds a realistic prototype that can be tested with users.
  4. Test: On the final day, the team tests the prototype with real users and gathers feedback.

Keep in mind that each phase is vital for achieving the sprint's goals.

How does a 4-day sprint differ from the traditional 5-day sprint?

The main difference between the 4-day and 5-day sprints lies in the reduction of time spent on certain activities, like decision-making, storyboarding, and prototyping. The 4-day run allows for a faster pace without sacrificing the essential steps for solving critical business problems.

What are some examples of successful 4-day design sprints?

Examples of successful 4-day sprints include projects in industries like software development, e-commerce, and healthcare. Some companies have successfully used 4-day sprints to develop new products, services, or optimize existing workflows. These sprints provide rapid solutions to critical business challenges and help teams reach a decision quickly.

It's up to you, but I wouldn't recommend tackling a full product in just one condensed sprint. You can tackle it part by part if it's complex, but not in 1 shortcut. When to stay on a discussion, and when to move forward the facilitator is the crux of a successful shorter sprint.

We can drop goal and focus setting because we've done that in a previous sprint. The prospect of a shorter design sprint sounds more attractive, especially with more people working from home, and in different time zones.

An iteration sprint is one where you're reviewing, improving, or fixing a solution that was already done in a previous sprint. Design Sprint created this template for Miro in collaboration with gurus. Of course, you may need to sell the idea of running a Design Sprint in the first place. Running a design sprint is one of the best ways to do a cross-team collaboration and produce a good solution.

When the facilitator is experienced. Experienced facilitators know how to run a sprint efficiently and navigate the process without compromising the result. There are a few circumstances when you could afford to do this.

As you can see, it isn't a rigid and inflexible process.

When your participants are not design sprint rookies. They've done them before and understand exactly what is needed and how the sessions are run. Structured discussions create a path for the sprint week.

Generally, I don't use this sprint version for new clients, who are not familiar with design sprints and working with us for the first time. Before the sprint begins, you've got to do some prep work. The following days follow the full sprint recipe. And finally, the second and third days are for prototyping and user testing. This version of it is reserved for iteration sprints only.

On the first day, we'll jump straight into ideation, voting, and then storyboarding. You'll take a small team, clear the schedule for a week, and rapidly progress from problem to tested solution using a proven step-by-step checklist. You brought firsthand expertise as an entrepreneur to ensure every step made sense in the real world

This works because we already have a working solution, we just want to build a better one. Then, you'll take the winning scenes from your sketches and weave them into a storyboard and the rest of the team chipped in their expertise to perfect the process.

Those two are an absolute must, because that is the whole point โ€” to prove an idea is valuable to our customers.

What are the primary benefits of using a 4-day enchanted design sprint?

Some of the primary benefits of using a 4-day run are:

  • Time efficiency: A shorter time reduces the time spent in meetings and allows teams to work in a more focused manner.

  • Rapid idea validation: Teams can quickly test and validate their ideas with real users and gather valuable feedback.

  • Cross-functional collaboration: The format supports works across various teams, promoting shared understanding and collaboration.

Which resources or templates are helpful in executing a 4-day design sprint?

Some resources and templates that can be helpful for executing a 4-day run are:

  • Checklists: A checklist that outlines the key steps to be taken for each day to ensure progress.

  • Storyboard templates: Predefined templates to ensure an organized and systematic approach to designing and planning the prototype.

  • User feedback forms: Structured forms to help capture and analyze user reviews during the testing phase.

How can I effectively facilitate a 4-day design sprint workshop?

To effectively facilitate a 4-days workshop:

  1. Be prepared: Review the goals, process, and resources beforehand to ensure smooth execution.

  2. Set clear expectations: Communicate the goals with the team and establish ground rules.

  3. Keep the team engaged: Provide ample opportunities for everyone to contribute and voice their opinions.

  4. Maintain the pace: Keep track of time and ensure the team stays on schedule to complete each phase.

  5. Be open to feedback: Regularly check in with team members and stay receptive to their suggestions and concerns.

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Daniel Cooper

โœ๏ธ Written By: Daniel Cooper
๐Ÿง™ Managing Partner, Lolly
๐Ÿ“… July 21st 2023 (Updated - August 22nd 2023)

Daniel Cooper is the founder and managing partner at Lolly and focuses on creating incredible digital products for his clients. As an experienced product designer, sprint facilitator, and software/app developer he has created simple, no-nonsense, and informative videos and articles for Lolly and other established brands.

โœ‰๏ธ [email protected]   ๐Ÿ”— LinkedIn