Design Sprints: The 5-Day Process for Rapid Ideation

Design Sprints take traditional design thinking methodologies and compress them into a five-day process of rapid ideation.

Published May 2021Tagged under Design

The Design Sprint is a framework developed originally by Google Ventures and has been used in many great startups and companies to rapidly ideate, test and launch new ideas. They're flexible and can be used to solve a whole range of problems and address opportunities, such as:

  • Designing better products and services by asking the right questions in a focused time frame.
  • Generating new creative ideas for solving problems, instead of relying on old ones.
  • Getting feedback quickly from your friends, family or customers to make sure you’re building what they want/need.

Why is it called a Design Sprint?

Design Sprints are based on traditional Design Thinking methodologies which consist of employing logic, imagination, intuition and systemic reasoning to solve tricky problems.

IDEO, the design firm co-founded by Apple's late CEO, Steve Jobs, developed are large advocates and thought leaders in the Design Thinking space. While Design Thinking was first introduced in the early 1990s, but it wasn't until 2011 that Design Sprints were introduced.

The first design sprint was a competition to solve an urgent problem for Google's AdWords team. They wanted to make sure the new version of their product would be ready and launched by January 2012. The winning team used this time-crunching new approach to quickly prototype and test out their ideas.

Who uses Design Sprints?

Design Sprints have been used from the smallest startups to the biggest tech companies.

  • Facebook used Design Sprints to create a cleaner-looking design for their platform.
  • Blue Bottle Coffee Company used Design Sprints to create a new customer experience, ensuring their coffee was fresh and delicious.
  • Netflix has also used design sprints with clients like DreamWorks Animation to come up with ideas for TV shows.

In addition to startups and tech companies, the Sprint framework is embraced by government agencies, NGOs and corporations — such as Nike and GE — to innovate faster than ever before.

How does a Design Sprint work?

The Design Sprint process breaks down into a series of tasks that are completed in five days (or less). The sprint is split up based on the day.

Monday

  • ☀️ Morning: long-term goals, questions, risks, assumptions, map that shows general user journey
  • 🌥 Afternoon: talk to experts on parts of the problem, interview them (timer) to improve our map. take notes with HMW, aggregate by category and vote on most useful for prototyping. Pick a target customer, spot on the map, questions from the morning to focus on for the sprint.

Tuesday

  • ☀️ Morning: Lightning demos (solutions from your / other companies, tours of products) and draw good examples on whiteboard.
  • 🌥 Afternoon: Sketching. Taking notes, jotting down ideas, crazy 8s, finished sketch (solution). Aggregate all the sketches.

Wednesday

  • ☀️ Morning: review sketches in silence, parts they like and don't like. structured critique on which parts we should bring in to prototype and dot voting. then decide on what's going in.
  • 🌥 Afternoon: put concepts head to head in a rumble. combine sketches + map from first day into storyboard.

Thursday

  • ☀️ Morning: Pick the right tools to make your prototype (like Keynote or Figma), divide and conquer and start prototyping
  • 🌥 Afternoon: Gather the team, trial run the stitched prototype, review and test

Friday

  • ☀️ Morning: Bring in customers and interview them with the prototype, watch their reactions. Rest of the team will be watching and taking notes.
  • 🌥 Afternoon: Combine notes, look for patterns, draw insights and prepare for the next sprint. Make a plan for the next sprint.

When should I use Design Sprints?

Design Sprints are a perfect fit for anyone who wants to make the best decisions quickly, create new ideas that haven't been explored before or get quick feedback from the people they're building their product/service for.

They're perfect to use when you're on a tight timeframe or working in a super agile environment. Traditional design thinking is more open ended - it can take as much time as you need to solve problems from scratch.

Where can I learn more about Design Sprints?

Jake Knapp, Mike Donoghue and John Zeratsky, the creators of Design Sprints have been teaching workshops all over the world. They've also written a book about it which you can purchase online or in stores!

You can also explore Google's Design Sprint Kit which includes supporting documents and templates, as well as new methodologies and examples.