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Design sprint

Learners discover what a design sprint is.

Definition and history

‘Design sprint’ is a methodology created by Jake Knapp in 2010 while working at Google. Inspired by IDEO’s design thinking approach, Google’s product development culture, and other sources of reference, Jake applied the design sprint internally at Google to experiment and build products like Gmail and Hangouts.

From 2010 to 2012, Jake’s design sprint followed a journey of iterations and refinements to perfect the process and be more effective within teams to achieve goals. He tested it with teams involved in Chrome, Search, Google X, and Google Ventures. Between 2012 and 2013, the Google Ventures team publicly shared information including the value behind the methodology and process of executing a design sprint. The Sprint Book, authored by Jake Knapp and released in 2016, shares the Google Ventures team story and experimentations and has inspired thousands of teams around the world to run design sprints since then.

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 UN), and even museums (like the British Museum and the Smithsonian), are just an example of teams that use design sprints internally. To learn more about design sprints, and find out how Google uses this methodology, watch the following video:

Watch: Google Design Sprint methodology (10:01) [1]

Design sprint goal

The main goal of a design sprint is to build and test a prototype in a short period of time. Generally speaking, this is five days (from Monday to Friday).

Graphic shows the “Building and testing a prototype within a week”. Monday = Map. Tuesday = Sketch. Wednesday = Decide. Thursday = Prototype. Friday = Test. Click to enlarge

With a small team locked-in for an entire week, and a step-by-step checklist, the process moves from framing a problem to testing a solution with target users. At the same time, the team experiments with more effective ways of solving problems, bringing out the best of everyone involved, to find solutions for design that really matters.

How does it work?

1. Set the stage

This is the prep work you do before the sprint kicks off. Identify a key challenge to embrace and explore over the five days. Recruit a multidisciplinary team with diverse skills and perspectives to lead the sprint. Select the venue where the action will occur and prep all the necessary materials for the upcoming days.

2. Week overview

On Monday, draw a map of the problem to be solved. On Tuesday, each participant sketches possible solutions for the problem. On Wednesday, the team decides which sketches are the best ones to consider. On Thursday, you build a realistic prototype. Lastly, on Friday, you test the prototype with five target users.

Final note

To capitalise on the design sprint week, it is important to understand the team must be fully focused on the process over the five days. It’s often difficult to get everyone on the same page for five consecutive days. A similar challenge is convincing leaders and individuals that it is highly valuable to move attention to a five-day activity as a flexible way to build something quicker, and to build something that really matters with a more efficient approach. To have participants in the session attending work calls or answering emails will never result in a positive outcome at the end of the sprint.

Over to you

The design sprint requires undivided attention from key members of your team. It’s a big ask, so what type of questions should you ask yourself before scheduling one? In what ways will you ensure the bar has been set high enough to warrant a design sprint?

References

  1. Google Design Sprint Methodology [Video]. Design Interaction; 2019 Sep 24. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWEJCLkf1D4&t=24s&ab_channel=Interaction-Design.org
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UX Design Strategy and Application: Customer Profiling and Design Sprints

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