Design Sprint

Design Sprint [Speed Summary]

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  • Design Sprint
  • Author: Richard Banfield, C. Todd Lombardo, and Trace Wax
  • Publisher: O’Reilly
  • Publication date: 2015

From brief to prototype in 5 days. In Design Sprint, three seasoned innovators with a digital background share the new ‘black’ in corporate and startup innovation – the design sprint.

A design sprint is ‘design-thinking’ on speed, a ‘time boxed’ framework that seeks to condense the traditional and somewhat lengthy design-thinking process into a week or under, whilst remaining true to its human-centric imperative.  As with design-thinking, the process starts and ends with the customer.  And as with design-thinking design sprints focus on ‘making it real’ as soon as possible, creating rapid-prototypes rather than concepts, and then getting these prototypes into customer’s hands.  The idea is to ‘design’ solutions to people’s problems by iteratively learning as you go. Popularised by Google (which is about to publish it’s own book on Design Sprints), design sprints marry the need for speed with the need to keep it real. As the book points out, design sprints apply the ‘scientific method’ (otherwise known as trial and error) to innovation, which involves coming up with a hypothesis, and then testing it by making it real, and then refining it and testing again.

Generate and Test

As a book, Design Sprint is practical and hands-on, with exercises, tools, checklists, tips and tricks replacing theory, jargon and case studies. So expect more ‘What’s in Your Sprint Kit?’ sections than a rationale for why design sprints work or how to sell them

What’s in Your ‘Sprint Kit’?

  • Big clock timer – everything in a design sprint is time-boxed
  • Big Post-it notes (variety of light, bright colours)
  • Drawing markers/sharpies
  • Adhesive putty
  • Easel pads
  • Whiteboard markers
  • Whiteboards
  • Large ½-inch thick foam core boards
  • Dot stickers for voting
  • Thick A4 copy paper
  • Snacks
  • Coffee

The book takes the reader through the five step design sprint process that is a twist on the traditional 5-step process in design thinking (Empathise – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test). Empathise and Define are collapsed into ‘Understand’ and Ideate is exploded into ‘Diverge’ and ‘Converge’

  1. Understand – Understand the customer, stakeholder, brief
    • Use ‘Discovery Interviews’ with category customers to understand feel their pain points (empathy)
    • Construct a customer journey map – what are customers doing before, during, and after the time they use your product
    • Know the ‘job to be done’ – what are category customers trying to achieve when using category products, what other categories do they use to get the job done
    • Define the problem – what is the main problem that’s getting in the way of completing the job to be done [this is your design brief]
    • Understand stakeholders (internal ‘customers’ – what are their hopes, fears, loves and hates? What do they want, scope/limits – what problem should this innovation solve for them [key to success – marry jobs to be done of user-customers with internal-customers who you’ll have to sell the idea to]
  2. Diverge – Generate solutions to help with the customer job-to-be-done
    • Explore the ‘design space’ for solving the defined problem by generating lots of solutions – Don’t think of this as group brainstorming. Rather, it’s about breaking up the time into individuals/pairs working individually to sketch their ideas without the pressures of groupthink, then sharing them with the rest of the group
    • ‘100 Ideas’ – each pair create a 10×10 matrix on a flip chart sheets, and generates 100 solutions/suggestions – one in each box – for solving the problem
    • ‘Mind Maps’ – Use mind maps to generate solutions by association. e,g. try putting the job-to-be-done in the centre – and ask yourself what you associate with a good solution – noting down the attributes
  3. Converge – Select ideas with most potential
    • Make sure budget holders and stakeholders are present and participating
    • Group similar ideas together, create a best version for each of the groups
    • $100 – you have $100 to invest across the sprint team’s ideas – where do you put your money?
    • Super vote – each person gets number of sticky stars to vote on preferred idea (customer desirability, business feasibility, technical viability)
    • Cost-Benefit matrix, plot ideas on a 2 x 2 matrix high-low value to customer, high-low cost of implementation (time/effort/money)
  4. Prototype – bring your solution to life so you can put it in the hands of customers
    • KISS – keep it simple stupid – what’s the MVP – minimal viable prototype. Use the simplest tool that can most effectively validate your assumptions. Do not try to be fancy. This is not the time to be a prima donna. You seek to learn, not impress.
    • For digital design, consider simple no-code prototyping apps – (e.g., POP, InVision,, Marvel App, Flinto, and Pixate)
  5. Test – put it in their hands and see what they say, feel what they feel
    • Test with at least five people, up to eight if possible. Test individually; no group testing.
    • Observe and take notes. Record if you can
    • The goal is to learn about what to improve

design sprint stages

The BG Take

Design Sprint is a solid, practical resource for any consultancy or agency running innovation workshops. The book is explicitly targeted at digital products and services, but innovators in physical goods will see the applicability of a design-sprint approach to their world. For seasoned design thinkers, design sprinters, there will be little ‘new news’ – but the checklists will be useful. But for agencies just beginning on the journey to of customer-focused innovation, or are or are switching away from idea-led ‘concept’ development to design-thinking rapid-prototyping, then it’s a solid handbook.


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