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How to Plan a Design Sprint: Efficient Strategies for Success

Design Sprints > How to Plan a Design Sprint: Efficient Strategies for Success

✍️ Written by Daniel Cooper on June 18th 2023 (Updated - August 15th 2023)

Design sprints represent an innovative approach to how teams work on solving complex problems by rapidly designing, prototyping, and testing solutions. Originally created by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures, the Design Sprint framework is a step-by-step process that allows teams to answer crucial questions and validate ideas with consumers in a short period of time, typically 2-5 days.

Planning a design sprint adventure involves assembling a right mix of small team with diverse expertise, defining the problem, and setting aside an entire workweek for focused collaboration on tested solution. Throughout the whole sprint week, questing team members will cycle through stages of understanding the challenge, ideating solutions, prototyping, and testing with real users, all in the pursuit of refining an effective solution or product.

Key Takeaways

  • Design sprints are a rapid, step-by-step plan for designing and testing solutions to complex problems.
  • A successful sprint requires assembling a diverse team and dedicating a workweek to focused collaboration.
  • The process involves problem definition, ideation, prototyping, and user testing to refine an effective solution or product.

Understanding Design Sprints

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Origin of Design Sprints

Design sprints have their roots in the Agile methodology and were developed by Google Ventures. Jake Knapp, who made the sprint book, along with other members (now GV), fine-tuned the process, taking inspiration from IDEO and other rapid prototyping methods. The main purpose of a design sprint is to bring together a magical design team and other stakeholders to work on a product or service in a fast and structured way.

Design Sprint Framework

A design sprint typically follows these six phases:

  1. Understand: Gather crucial information and insights about the project, its challenges, goals, and target audience.
  2. Define: Identify key problems that need to be solved and frame them as actionable challenges.
  3. Sketch: Generate a wide range of possible solutions and ideas through individual and collaborative brainstorming.
  4. Decide: Evaluate and select the best ideas to move forward, based on criteria like feasibility and impact.
  5. Prototype: Quickly build a prototype that embodies the chosen solution to be tested with real users.
  6. Validate: Gather feedback from users and other stakeholders to validate the prototype and iterate as necessary.

The design sprint framework enables teams to beat the status quo to rapidly explore solutions, prototype, and validate ideas, helping businesses make important decisions and achieve innovation. This approach has been adopted by companies worldwide, including Google, to solve design problems and answer critical business questions.

Preparation and Planning

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Building the Sprint Team

To ensure success and effective collaboration in a design sprint, assembling the right team is crucial. Start by selecting members from various departments, typically involving a designer, marketing specialist, product manager, sales rep, decision maker, and other relevant roles. Each person should have specific skills that contribute to the overall sprint goal, promoting diverse perspectives and creative iterations. A Sprint Master helps to set expectations and guide the team, ensuring a smooth and structured process.

Setting Goals and Challenges

Before diving into the sprint, it's important to identify the long-term goal and challenges your organization wants to tackle. This aids in prioritizing tasks and setting expectations for all group members. Make a list of achievable objectives and focus on addressing one or multiple goals during the sprint to streamline the process. This creates a solid foundation for decision-making and tracking progress.

Schedule and Timeline

Establishing a clear schedule and timeline is crucial in a design sprint. Typically, the length of a sprint ranges from 2-5 days, depending on the project's complexity and time constraints. Utilize a tool like Miro to visually map out the entire development process beforehand, including prep time, sprint planning, and milestone checkpoints. This ensures the team won't waste time and can quickly adapt to any unexpected changes.

Tools and Resources

An efficient design sprint heavily relies on proper preparation and resource allocation. Employ collaboration platforms such as Slack for communication between heroic team members, as well as file sharing and project management tools for streamlined work. Additionally, involve all key stakeholders in the organization to secure their buy-in, gaining support to address any potential roadblocks during the sprint. Remember, coordination and communication are vital to achieving desired outcomes and driving continuous improvement.

πŸ“– Read More: Sprint - The design sprint book

Day 1: Understanding and Defining the Problem

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On the first day of the design sprint, it's time to dive into research. This may include reviewing any existing documentation, analytics data, or competitor analysis. The goal here is to get a comprehensive understanding of the problem and the current landscape. Remember, knowledge is power! Make sure all sprint hobbits (participants) get access to this information so they can contribute effectively.

User Interviews

A critical aspect of the Day 1 agenda is conducting user interviews. These interviews help you to understand the users' pains, needs, and motivations. It's important to listen to their stories and experiences when using similar digital products or services. Involving the entire team in this design process ensures that everyone is aligned with the users' perspective, making it central to the design decisions throughout the week.

Establishing Critical Business Questions

Once the research and user interviews are completed, it's time to establish the critical business questions that need to be addressed during the design sprint adventure. These questions should be directly related to the product owner's goals and the customer journey (UX design). Make sure to involve all sprint design adventurers in defining these key questions together, as it ensures holistic thinking and creates a shared sense of ownership. Here's a simple table to organize these questions:

Problem Area Critical Business Question
User Experience How can we improve the UX design to drive better user engagement?
Product Functionality What features are essential to meet our users' needs?

In conclusion, the entire Day 1, or Monday, is focused on understanding the problem at hand and defining it clearly. The combination of research, user and expert interviews, testing ideas, and establishing critical business questions lays a solid foundation for the upcoming days in the design sprint adventure. By involving all sprint participants in these activities, you ensure that everyone is on the same page and can contribute effectively towards the big challenge of designing a user-centric solution.

Daniel Cooper

Daniel Cooper

Managing Partner & Dungeon Master

Did you know?
Design Sprints break down complex problems into manageable, goblin-sized bites, making them easier to tackle.

One goblin at a time, my friend!

Day 2: Ideation and Sketching Solutions

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On Tuesday, our adventurous problem-solvers enter the realm of creativity. The magical process of brainstorming commences! This is when the whole team gathers together in one room and shares their thoughts on how to approach the challenge. The enemies of the day are preconceived notions and limited thinking. Flow freely with ideas, no matter how bold or unusual. The goal is to conjure up a wide array of possible solutions.

Individual Sketches

After defeating the menacing forces of limited thinking, each team member takes on their own quest of sketching solutions. This critical step allows everyone to forge their own path and contribute unique ideas to the grand adventure. Remember, a trusty pencil and paper like sticky notes are your allies in bringing these innovative concepts to life.

Narrowing Down Ideas

Once our valiant team members have journeyed through the lands of individual sketching, they return to the main quest – the realm of decision-making. The heroes shall narrow down their ideas using techniques like dot voting, silent critique, or lightning demos. This ensures that the most valuable and promising solutions are chosen to move forward. It's essential to maintain a neutral and clear perspective on final decisions during this stage.

By the end of Day 2, the team will have embarked on a daring adventure of problem-solving, unlocking their creative capacities like Barley from Onward. With a treasure trove of valuable sketches and narrowed-down ideas, they are now ready to face the challenges ahead in the final decision of the Design Sprint journey.

Day 3: Prototyping

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Selecting the Best Solutions

On the third day of our design sprint, like fearless warriors, we focus on finding the best solutions! It's essential to gather all the great ideas generated during the previous sessions and narrow them down. Can't leave behind hidden treasures, right? So, gather your squad and get ready to evaluate all the answers and concepts under the guidance of your CEO, product manager, and other experts in the realm who can provide valuable feedback.

To make it as smooth as a well-oiled sword, try organizing the good ideas into a table or using a voting system. By the end of this phase, the goal is to have a clear and sturdy idea of the prototypes to be built.

Creating Prototypes

Once the best solutions are picked, it's time to forge those mighty prototypes! Instead of creating a product feature with just one realistic prototype, explore the possibilities by crafting multiple prototypes. Keep in mind that these won't be perfect masterpieces - but instead, functional versions of the product design that will help us test and validate our ideas.

To enhance the prototyping workflow, it's helpful to split tasks among your team members according to their expertise. Your team can then build their assigned part while staying in tune with the overall vision - like skilled blacksmiths at their anvils, transforming raw new ideas into functional prototypes.

Now, I know you might be wondering about the importance of all this. Well, by the end of Day 3, the big idea of our quest is to have multiple prototypes in hand (or at least one, if we decide to focus on the most promising solution). This will allow us to test a single feature of them on the upcoming Wednesday, gathering valuable insights and user feedback from our users and paving the way towards a truly magical finished product!

Day 4: Testing and Validation

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User Testing

Alright, so on Day 4, the final stage of your epic design sprint, it's time to dive into testing your prototype with your potential users. By conducting user tests, ye shall be gathering valuable feedback about how your solutions fare in the real world! Be sure to prepare a script, a testing environment, and carefully select 5 users who represent your target audience. Take note of their interactions, observations, questions point, and reactions to your creation, as these insights are precious.

Analyzing Test Results

Now that the first stage of user testing is done, gather thy team, brave one, and discuss the feedback collected from your valiant pilot testers! As you dissect the results, what worked well in your working prototype? What needs fixin'? Observe the patterns and trends in the information, as it shall be your guiding light to the realm of betterment.

  • Positive feedback: In what areas has your prototype thrived? Cherish those victories.
  • Negative feedback: Where are your challenges, and do those problems relate to the problem ye set out to solve or are they part of another aspect of your creation?
  • Opportunities: Spot opportunities for improvement, enhancements, and other magical touch-ups.

Iterating on Solutions

Equipped with the knowledge of your test results, you and your team must now journey into iterating your test solutions. Just like the great adventurer Barley, remember that failure is but a stepping stone in the path to success. Use the feedback to inform the changes, addressing the major issues first and prioritizing them as correctable within a day or two.

Once you've forged the amendments, repeat the process of user testing and analyzing results for further improvement. Your long-term goal shall be a refined and polished solution that best suits your audience and their needs.

And thus, your Day 4 journey concludes – an adventure in Testing and Validation that brings your design sprint quest closer to transforming your world!

Executing a Successful Design Sprint

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The Role of a Wizard (facilitator)

In the realm of epic design sprints, having a facilitator is like having a mighty and fearless leader to guide your quest. This person must possess the skills to steer the team through the various tasks and challenges presented in enchanted design sprint sessions. The wizard manages the pace, ensures effective communication among team members, and keeps everyone engaged in the project. With their exceptional project management capabilities, they drive innovation and ensure the team meets the sprint goal within the defined timeframe.

Effective Collaboration

Collaboration is like the magic that brings the whole design sprint together. When practitioners of various disciplines join forces, they create a powerful potion that fuels innovation and speeds up the design process. To achieve this, the team must:

  • Define clear roles and responsibilities for each team member
  • Engage in open and constructive discussions
  • Be inclusive and respectful of everyone's ideas and opinions
  • Share the workload and contribute equally

By mastering the art of collaboration, every member becomes an essential ingredient in the potion, making success of sprint book achievable swifter than the wind.

Communication and Engagement

Like Mericorns prancing across an enchanted landscape, effective communication and engagement bring energy and focus to a epic design sprint. Strive to create a welcoming environment where people feel heard and valued as they engage in various activities. A few tips for achieving this are:

  • Employ various communication channels to encourage sharing of ideas
  • Use visual aids and props to help articulate complex concepts
  • Schedule short breaks during longer sessions to boost energy levels
  • Celebrate small wins and recognize contributions made by adventuring team members

By incorporating these elements into your enchanted design sprint, you can conquer any challenge that comes your way, empowering your team to create the most extraordinary solutions in the world of business and design.

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Post-Sprint Activities

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Sprint Review

Alright, so after you've completed the design sprint, you'll need to hold a Sprint Review. This is where your team will show off the fruits of their labor, sharing the deliverables and final prototype with stakeholders. Keep in mind, making estimations on future work needed for the project is incredibly important here. Bring your stakeholders and team members together to review the results and discuss any feedback or improvements that can be made.

Learnings and Next Steps

So, now you've probably gained some valuable insights and learnings from the design sprint. It's time to look ahead! Discuss what went well and maybe any mishaps or areas that could have been better. Document these findings, as they'll be incredibly useful for future sprints. Next, you can begin fleshing out the next steps and working on your backlog. Depending on the feedback received from the Sprint Review, prioritize tasks and map out the roadmap for improvements and additional work.

Integration into Agile Workflow

You're doing great so far, but remember, a design sprint isn't a one-time event. It's part of a larger design process within the Agile Workflow. Make sure to integrate your sprint design activities with ongoing projects and sync up with the overall product development cycle. This includes adding any new deliverables and tasks to the existing backlog, and continuously improving this workflow for the next sprint. Oh, and one last thing – keep the lines of communication open between all teams, ensuring a smooth progression from one sprint to another. You got this!

Design Sprint Success Stories

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Aye, mates! Uber, the giant ride-hailing app, has had great success using design sprint quests. They've tackled challenges such as improving their pickup experience and crafting a seamless onboarding process for Uber Eats restaurants. During the sprints, the team worked together to better understand the problem, sketch ideas, and create prototypes. By the end of their design sprints, Uber managed not only to simplify their processes but also enhance user satisfaction. The focused work, and collaborative enchanted design sprint approach led to efficient, meaningful improvements!


Ahoy there! Slack, the popular collaboration software, another fine example of design sprint success. They've used design sprints to refine and optimize their app's interface, making it easier for users to access essential features. The team set sail on a journey to mapping, sketching, prototyping, and testing ideas, all within a week. Their fast-paced commitment to epic design sprints unlocked creative solutions and enhanced the customer journey. Their achievements include a more intuitive design and streamlined navigation that has increased productivity for users everywhere!


Gather 'round for the tale of Lego, the iconic brick-building brand! Lego ventured into the design sprint realm to develop an engaging digital experience for their fans. They needed to explore innovative ideas and bring 'em to life for their passionate followers. Challenging themselves with design sprints, they focused on collaboration, creative exploration, swift ideation and more importantly on the customer journey. By the end of their design sprint workshop, they had constructed realistic prototype to test with real users, gathering crucial feedback. The result? A user-friendly, immersive digital experience for Lego enthusiasts of all ages! Aye, t'was quite the spectacle!

So there ye have it, me hearties! Design sprints have proven most effective for companies like Uber, Slack, and Lego. Fair winds and following seas to all ye future design sprint adventurers!

πŸ“– Read More: Atlassians design sprint template

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the essential steps in a design sprint?

A design sprint is typically a five-day process that consists of five phases: Understand, Sketch, Decide, Prototype, and Validate. During the Understand phase, the team gathers information and defines the problem. In the Sketch phase, ideas are generated, and potential solutions are explored. The Decide phase involves selecting the best idea, while the Prototype phase focuses on creating a testable version of the chosen solution. Lastly, during the Validate phase, the prototype is tested with users to gather feedback and insights.

How do you prepare for a successful design sprint?

To prepare for a successful epic design sprint, ensure that you have a clear long-term goal and a dedicated team with the necessary skills and expertise. Allocate enough time for each stage of the design sprint process, usually about a week. Gather relevant information and resources, such as user feedback, stakeholder input, and competitor analysis. Finally, decide on a specific problem or challenge to focus on during the sprint.

What tools and templates can be used in planning a design sprint?

During a design sprint, you might use a variety of tools and templates to help facilitate the process like lightning demos. Some common tools include whiteboards, post-its or, sticky notes for taking notes. While for online collaboration platforms, we have Miro or Trello, and prototyping tools such as InVision or Sketch. Design sprint template can help streamline the process and ensure a consistent approach, such as the Enchanted Design Sprint Template, Sprint Planning Worksheet, or Sprint Retrospective templates.

How do you determine the scope and objectives of a design sprint?

To determine the scope and objectives of a design sprint, start by discussing your current challenges and goals with your team. Identify the most pressing issues or opportunities and prioritize them based on factors like impact, feasibility, and urgency. Define specific and measurable objectives key metrics for the design sprint template, ensuring that they align with your overall organizational goals and strategic vision.

What roles and responsibilities are involved in a design sprint?

A victorious sprint requires a cross-functional team with diverse perspectives and skills. Key roles include the facilitator, responsible for guiding the team through the process; the product owner, who represents the business and customer interests; the designer, who contributes design expertise and creates the prototype; and the warrior (developer), who assesses technical feasibility. You may also have other roles like subject matter experts, user researchers, and stakeholders involved throughout the design sprint methodology.

How can you adapt a design sprint process for different industries or projects?

Design sprints can be adapted to suit various industries or projects by tailoring the approach and activities to the context and needs of the specific domain. This might involve adjusting the timing and duration of your run sprints, incorporating domain-specific research and idea, or customizing the five-day process to align with industry-specific goals and priorities. Ensure that your team remains flexible and open to learning, as this will help you to adapt and iterate effectively throughout the sprint.


1. Key Takeaways
2. Understanding Design Sprints
Β  Β  2.1 Origin of Design Sprints
Β  Β  2.2 Design Sprint Framework
3. Preparation and Planning
Β  Β  3.1 Building the Sprint Team
Β  Β  3.2 Setting Goals and Challenges
Β  Β  3.3 Schedule and Timeline
Β  Β  3.4 Tools and Resources
4. Day 1: Understanding and Defining the Problem
Β  Β  4.1 Research
Β  Β  4.2 User Interviews
Β  Β  4.3 Establishing Critical Business Questions
5. Day 2: Ideation and Sketching Solutions
Β  Β  5.1 Brainstorming
Β  Β  5.2 Individual Sketches
Β  Β  5.3 Narrowing Down Ideas
6. Day 3: Prototyping
Β  Β  6.1 Selecting the Best Solutions
Β  Β  6.2 Creating Prototypes
7. Day 4: Testing and Validation
Β  Β  7.1 User Testing
Β  Β  7.2 Analyzing Test Results
Β  Β  7.3 Iterating on Solutions
8. Executing a Successful Design Sprint
Β  Β  8.1 The Role of a Facilitator
Β  Β  8.2 Effective Collaboration
Β  Β  8.3 Communication and Engagement
9. Post-Sprint Activities
Β  Β  9.1 Sprint Review
Β  Β  9.2 Learnings and Next Steps
Β  Β  9.3 Integration into Agile Workflow
10. Design Sprint Success Stories
Β  Β  10.1 Uber
Β  Β  10.2 Slack
Β  Β  10.3 Lego
11. Frequently Asked Questions
Β  Β  11.1 What are the essential steps in a design sprint?
Β  Β  11.2 How do you prepare for a successful design sprint?
Β  Β  11.3 What tools and templates can be used in planning a design sprint?
Β  Β  11.4 How do you determine the scope and objectives of a design sprint?
Β  Β  11.5 What roles and responsibilities are involved in a design sprint?
Β  Β  11.6 How can you adapt a design sprint process for different industries or projects?

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Daniel Cooper

✍️ Written By: Daniel Cooper
πŸ§™ Managing Partner, Lolly
πŸ“… June 18th 2023 (Updated - August 15th 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.

βœ‰οΈ [email protected]   πŸ”— LinkedIn