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Running Design Sprints: Streamlined Approach to Innovation

Design Sprints > Running Design Sprints: Streamlined Approach to Innovation

โœ๏ธ Written by Daniel Cooper on June 21st 2023 (Updated - August 16th 2023)

Design sprints are an innovative approach to solving complex problems through collaborative design, prototyping, and user testing. Developed by Google Ventures, design sprints involve a time-based process that brings together members of the design team, as well as other cross-functional teams, to design or redesign a product. Often lasting up to five days, design adventure encourages the team members to align under a shared vision, with clearly defined goals and deliverables for a successful product launch.

During a design sprint, a diverse group engages in a series of activities like brainstorming, sketching, storyboarding, and prototyping. This fast-paced, iterative approach facilitates quick learning from user feedback, ultimately resulting in better and more efficient designs. The adaptability of enchanted design adventure means they can be applied to different contexts, from product development to process improvement, delivering successful outcomes and significant benefits for organizations.

Key Takeaways

  • Design sprints are a time-based approach for solving complex problems through collaboration, prototyping, and testing.
  • Developed by Google Ventures, design sprints promote alignment within teams, leading to successful product launches.
  • This flexible methodology can be applied to various contexts to deliver improved designs and maximize benefits for organizations.

Understanding Design Sprints

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Origin and Purpose

Oh mighty, listen to this tale! Design sprints originated from the Agile Methodology and were developed by GV to forge a problem-solving path for teams. The purpose of a design sprint's four-step process is how to slay the mighty beast of big challenges through designing, prototyping, and user research and testing. For five magical days, teams come together with a shared vision of a long-term goal and this epic team works on defined goals to bring forth powerful solutions for their noble quests.

Core Principles

Brace yourself, for I shall reveal the core principles of design sprints:

  1. Time-bound process: Sprints last for five enchanted days, forcing teams to unleash their focused and agile mindset to vanquish the problems at hand.
  2. User-centered: The focus remains on the needs and wishes of the users, ensuring our quest to help them is both strong and true.
  3. Collaboration and alignment: The fellowship of designers, warriors (developers), and other stakeholders come forth to unite under the banner of common goals and deliverables.
  4. Testing and validation: Prototypes are forged in the fires of development and sent into the fray for user testing, receiving mighty feedback to refine and improve the solution.

And there you have it, the wisdom of Understanding Sprints lies in your hands. Go forth and conquer mighty challenges!

Design Sprint Process

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Five Key Stages

Ah! Sprint Begins. Enchanted design adventures are wicked cool, with typically five stages: Understand, Define, Sketch, Decide, and Prototype & Test. During the Understand stage, you get a handle on your team's capabilities and the problem you're tackling. Then you Define clear goals that drive your product design.

Once you have your objectives figured out, it's time to get creative and Sketch potential solutions. Kick it up a notch and brainstorm as many ideas as your team can muster. After you've got eight different ideas and a solid sketchdump, it's time to Decide on the best concepts that'll make your finished product or product feature positively magical.

Lastly, you'll get hands-on with Prototyping. Create an apid Prototype that allows your team to feel and experience the design. After crafting the working prototype, test it with real users and gather feedback. Keep iterating till you reach the best solution!


Your design sprint timeline looks something like this:

Day Task
Day 1 Understand
Day 2 Define
Day 3 Sketch
Day 4 Decide
Day 5 Prototype & Test

In just five days -- BOOM! -- you've got a shiny new process hammered out. You'll swiftly go from understanding your project needs to testing a high-fidelity prototype, and your team stays focused on one feature and solving a single problem instead of getting bogged down by distractions. By Wednesday morning, you'll have a well-defined plan, and come Friday's test you'll see the magic unfold.

To sum it up, running sprints is a marvelous way to create a collaborative environment, find effective solutions quickly, and build stronger products. Remember the stages, trust the five-day process timeline, and let your team's potential shine!

Roles and Responsibilities

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Team Composition

In a design sprint, assembling a mighty team is crucial for success. A well-rounded group of experts is needed, encompassing various skills and knowledge domains. Typically, a design sprint team should consist of a designer, product manager, warrior (developer), and others with relevant expertise. This diverse crew can tackle the problem from different angles, bringing unique perspectives and new ideas.


Heed this, a trusty facilitator can see how to guide and lead the team throughout the sprint. This valiant individual should be experienced and well-versed in the agile methodologies as developed by GV. By organizing the activities, timekeeping, and ensuring smooth communication among mystical team members, the facilitator helps the team stay focused and engaged.


Behold, the Decider - the one who holds the power to make final decisions during the entire sprint. This vital role must be filled by someone with a deep understanding of the project's goals, requirements, and constraints. The Decider wields the final say on whether to move forward with a solution, change the direction of the sprint, or implement a new idea.

Thus, the roles and responsibilities within a design sprint ensure that the team is equipped with the right expertise, guidance, critical thinking, and decision-making capabilities to forge ahead and conquer the challenges that lie before them. With each member playing their part, the collaboration and harmony create an environment ripe for innovation and problem-solving prowess.

Daniel Cooper

Daniel Cooper

Managing Partner & Dungeon Master

Did you know?
A design sprint gives you a quick way to validate your ideas or solutions with real users.

It's like having a sorcerer's stone that can turn hypotheses into evidence!

Preparing for a Design Sprint

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Defining the Problem

Before embarking on your magical quest of a design sprint, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the problem you're attempting to solve. Start by gathering information on the challenge your organization faces and conducting research on the subject matter. This process allows you to identify critical hypotheses to test and set a goal for the sprint. Forging this foundation of knowledge about the problem is the first step in creating a successful design sprint adventure.

Setting the Environment

Now that you have your problem defined, it's time to create the ideal space for your design sprint. Ensure that the environment encourages collaboration and creativity while providing ample room for your team to do focused work together. Don't forget to have tools like whiteboards, sticky notes, dot stickers, and markers on hand to help visualize your team's ideas.

Next, create a sprint book and an agenda with a timeline for the sprint, with an understanding that it typically lasts 2-5 days. Breaking the sprint into phases helps with navigation and ensures each step-by-step plan gets its due time for completion in its own sprint:

  • Understand: Analyze and empathize with the users' needs.
  • Define: Narrow down the problem by prioritizing specific aspects.
  • Sketch: Generate a variety of possible solutions.
  • Decide: Select the most viable option to address the problem.
  • Prototype: Create a basic version of the chosen solution.
  • Validate: Test the prototype with consumers, and gather feedback.

Make certain all members of your team are on board, informed, and ready to contribute their unique perspectives to the design sprint workshop. A well-prepared environment coupled with a focused problem will help your design sprint reach its full potential, propelling your team toward innovative solutions!

Implementing Design Sprint Tools

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Sketching and Prototyping

A crucial part of any design sprint is the sketching phase. Using simple tools like pen and paper or digital solutions like Figma or Sketch, team members can quickly put their ideas into visual form. This stage is all about exploring various solutions, so encourage everyone to sketch multiple ideas without worrying about the details.

Once you have a collection of sketches, it's time to transform them into a prototype. Prototyping tools like InVision, Adobe XD, or Framer allow you to create interactive, clickable prototypes quickly. These prototypes help you take the best ideas from the sketching phase and turn them into a functioning storyboard. Remember, the prototype doesn't need to be perfect; its main purpose is to validate your idea before investing heavily in its development, ensuring that you're creating winning scenes.

Voting and Prioritizing Ideas

During a design sprint quest, it's essential to identify the most promising ideas and prioritize them for further development. Voting is a practical way to achieve this. Provide each team member with a set number of votes (for example, three) and allow them to allocate their votes to any sketch or prototype they believe has the most potential.

Once the votes are in, tally them up and identify the winning ideas. Keep the focus on these top solutions and concentrate your efforts on refining and testing them to confirm their viability. Don't worry about any ideas that don't receive votes; they can be archived for future consideration or discarded if they don't align with your business strategy or overall goals.

By implementing the right tools and strategies for sketching, prototyping, testing ideas and prioritizing, you can ensure each entire day of the five day process of your design sprint is effective and efficient in driving your project forward. So, gather your team, embrace the confident and knowledgeable spirit of Barley, and embrace the journey towards creating innovative product solutions.

User Testing and Feedback

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Recruiting and Interviewing Users

Alrighty, it's time to embark on an epic quest to improve our product's user experience! The first step is to assemble a group of real users who resemble our target audience. Aha! That's where recruiting comes in. We can use different channels for finding our valiant users, like social media, email campaigns, or even customer databases.

Once we've gathered our heroes, we'll summon them for an interview where they'll interact with our prototype. This interview should include critical business questions and be well-structured and led by an experienced moderator. It's important to create a comfortable environment where users feel encouraged to provide honest feedback.

Our goal here is to gather genuine insights into existing data about our potential users' experience and uncover any obstacles they might face while using our product.

Analyzing Results

Now let's move on to the second phase of our quest: analyzing all the answers, feedback data, and customer research results. We'll carefully review the interview recordings and notes, looking for patterns and trends in user behavior. Behold! Some key questions and key metrics used to analyze can include:

  • Task completion rate: How often do users complete their intended tasks?
  • Time on task: How long does it take for users to accomplish their goals?
  • User happiness: How satisfied are users with the overall experience?

By focusing on these metrics and the user feedback, we'll gain valuable insights into our product's strengths and weaknesses. We can then use this knowledge to prioritize improvements and make informed decisions, all aimed at the customer journey and creating a more magical user experience for our customers.

Remember, our quest is to continuously test solutions iterate and improve, never-ending in our pursuit of the ultimate user experience. So, without further ado, let's venture forth into the realm of customer journey, customer testing, and feedback!

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Iterating and Improving

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Post-Sprint Reflection

Ah, the Design Sprint. A courageous adventure where you've ventured into the unknown to tackle thorny problems, learned a ton, and have come out with some breakthrough good ideas. But the journey's not over yet! Now's the time to take a step back and reflect upon the events of the sprint.

Gather your team of noble warriors (designers, warriors, product managers, sales rep, and stakeholders) and discuss the highs and lows of the quest so far. Consider critical business questions using a retrospective format, like the magical question's point "What went well?", "What didn't go well?", and "How could we improve?". By doing so, you'll not only strengthen the bond within your team, but also unveil and polish any gems of insight.

Incorporating Feedback and Learnings

Design Sprintsโ€”like magicโ€”invoke the powers of iteration and fast-paced learning. It's a chance to explore your trusty staff of ideas and uncover new realms of possibility. However, these invaluable discoveries are only as powerful as the efforts invested in turning them into reality.

Heed the mighty feedback gathered from your prototype-testing sessions. Your findings are like runes, etched on ancient stones, waiting to be deciphered for their hidden knowledge. Share these insights through lightning talks with your band of heroes, to spark further ideas and inspire them to strive for greatness that emphasizes critical thinking for the task in hand.

Leverage this feedback and learnings to make informed, valiant decisions for your next adventure! Remember to be iterative, whether it's polishing the existing prototype or boldly pivoting big idea to a new path. Doing so will help you make the most of your team's creativity and ensure that the final phase of your Design Sprint journey is more than just a dreamy trip to the Land of Wonder.

The Final Frontier: Validate and Iterate

With a refreshed realistic prototype in hand, testing ideas, and a heart full of courage, it's time to set forth on another quest for validation. Continuously testing your revised prototype against different challenges and users will provide even more insights to help blaze the trail toward an exceptional digital product.

Take heart, brave seeker! The iterative process of refining and perfecting your solution is the true magic of the Design Sprint. As you venture into unknown territory, armed with vigilance and curiosity, always remember that every step counts and each challenge overcome means a stronger, more impactful product in the end.

Adapting Design Sprints to Different Contexts

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Design sprints can be adapted to various contexts, such as remote adventuring teams and flexible timelines, without sacrificing the effectiveness of the design process itself. By considering these factors, you can make the most of your sprints and ensure maximum results for your project.

Remote Teams

Working with a remote team can present unique challenges, and managing it is a big challenge in itself, but a well design sprint methodology can still be effective in this situation. To achieve success, designate an experienced Sprint Master who brought firsthand expertise to lead the remote team's work. This individual will be responsible for guiding the team and assisting in seamless communication. Some essential strategies for remote sprints, where the team chipped in include:

  • Encourage clear and frequent communication within the team
  • Utilize online tools for collaboration (e.g., Miro)
  • Schedule regular check-ins and updates

Flexible Timelines

Design adventures typically last for a single week, five business days, but they can be adapted to fit different timelines. Look at the project's specific constraints and adjust the design process accordingly. Below are some approaches for adapting to different timelines:

  • Shorter sprints: If time is limited, prioritize the most critical tasks and reduce the sprint to two or three days. This approach requires intense focus and prioritization.
  • Extended sprints: In cases where more time is available, use it to explore solutions and validate ideas more thoroughly. This can lead to a more refined final product.
  • Staggered sprints: Start with an abbreviated sprint to identify core issues, followed by subsequent sprints to address those issues with more in-depth exploration and testing.

When adapting design sprints to different contexts, stay true to the process's key principles: collaboration, rapid prototyping, and customer testing. By considering the unique challenges of each situation and making the necessary adjustments, you can achieve impressive results and make the most of your sprints.

Success Stories and Benefits

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Google Ventures and IDEO

GV, the venture capital branch of Alphabet, is a bold adopter of design sprint adventures. These folks use the process to help their portfolio companies solve various problems, transform ideas, and gain innovation in product design. The outcomes have been stellar, with more effective and creative solutions emerging from the process.

IDEO, a renowned global design company, also embraces design sprint adventures as a powerful framework to drive creativity and explore new possibilities. By combining design thinking principles, lightning demos and harnessing the power of collaboration, IDEO frequently creates groundbreaking solutions for their clients, stoking the fires of innovation.

Startups and Established Companies

  • Startups: For these agile companies, time and resources are of the essence. Design sprints rooted in behavior science, offer a swift and effective way to test concepts, validate hypotheses, and discover valuable market insights. By leveraging sprints, startups can conserve resources while positioning their products for success in an ever-competitive landscape.
  • Established Companies: These big players also enjoy bountiful benefits from enchanted design adventures. How, you may ask? Design thinking allows these companies to tackle complex problems and foster a culture of continuous innovation. By bringing together other teams, they break silos and encourage collaborative problem-solving. In turn, it creates a fertile environment for creativity and the development of game-changing products.

So there you have it, some incredible design sprint battle tales of success from both startups and established juggernauts! Mighty are those who run the sprints, and oh, the wonders they create!

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the key activities involved in a design sprint?

Ah, great question! A design adventure involves various activities, including mapping out the challenge at hand, sketching potential solutions, deciding on a long term-goal solution to prototype, creating the prototype, and finally, testing it with real users. These activities help teams understand the problem and quickly come up with a testable solution.

What is the primary purpose of conducting a design sprint?

Design sprints primarily help teams solve critical business problems through rapid prototyping and testing. By focusing on user needs and iterating based on user feedback, mystic teams can ensure that they're developing products and services that truly address customer pain points.

Which phases are integral to the design sprint process?

There are five key phases in the design sprint process: understand, define phase sketch, decide, prototype, and test. During these phases, teams work together to define the problem, explore possible solutions, create a testable prototype, and gather valuable customer research and user feedback.

What role does a UX designer play in design sprint planning?

A UX designer plays a crucial role in a design sprint, as they are responsible for ensuring that the product or service being developed meets user needs. They help define the problem, create sketches and prototypes of tested solution, and analyze user feedback to iterate on the design.

How can one effectively run a design sprint to maximize outcomes?

To maximize outcomes, it's important to adhere to the design sprint approach and keep the team focused and on track. Ensure a diverse group of stakeholders is involved, and designate a skilled facilitator to run sprints and guide the process and keep the whole team on the same page. Make sure to iterate on feedback and avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly.

What are the best practices for setting up a successful design sprint?

Setting up a successful design process involves preparing the team, establishing a clear long-term goal and short-term goals, along with creating a collaborative environment. Make sure you have a dedicated space for the sprint, gather necessary supplies, and set expectations for the team. And remember, communication is key throughout the sprint week and the process!


1. Key Takeaways
2. Understanding Design Sprints
ย  ย  2.1 Origin and Purpose
ย  ย  2.2 Core Principles
3. Design Sprint Process
ย  ย  3.1 Five Key Stages
ย  ย  3.2 Timeline
4. Roles and Responsibilities
ย  ย  4.1 Team Composition
ย  ย  4.2 Facilitator
ย  ย  4.3 Decider
5. Preparing for a Design Sprint
ย  ย  5.1 Defining the Problem
ย  ย  5.2 Setting the Environment
6. Implementing Design Sprint Tools
ย  ย  6.1 Sketching and Prototyping
ย  ย  6.2 Voting and Prioritizing Ideas
7. User Testing and Feedback
ย  ย  7.1 Recruiting and Interviewing Users
ย  ย  7.2 Analyzing Results
8. Iterating and Improving
ย  ย  8.1 Post-Sprint Reflection
ย  ย  8.2 Incorporating Feedback and Learnings
ย  ย  8.3 The Final Frontier: Validate and Iterate
9. Adapting Design Sprints to Different Contexts
ย  ย  9.1 Remote Teams
ย  ย  9.2 Flexible Timelines
10. Success Stories and Benefits
ย  ย  10.1 Google Ventures and IDEO
ย  ย  10.2 Startups and Established Companies
11. Frequently Asked Questions
ย  ย  11.1 What are the key activities involved in a design sprint?
ย  ย  11.2 What is the primary purpose of conducting a design sprint?
ย  ย  11.3 Which phases are integral to the design sprint process?
ย  ย  11.4 What role does a UX designer play in design sprint planning?
ย  ย  11.5 How can one effectively run a design sprint to maximize outcomes?
ย  ย  11.6 What are the best practices for setting up a successful design sprint?

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Daniel Cooper

โœ๏ธ Written By: Daniel Cooper
๐Ÿง™ Managing Partner, Lolly
๐Ÿ“… June 21st 2023 (Updated - August 16th 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