Design for a light-touch, full-product experience. Ask yourself: What’s the smallest set of features you can design that will still solve users’ problems? Start with the simplest version of your product, get user feedback, and then add features. As your sprint loops continue, you can move from simple prototypes to robust product directions. With Swell, we focused on creating a hero page for each key interaction (landing page, sign up, and invest). This meant we were testing the functionality of the full product experience, just in a light-touch way.
While we assume you’re familiar with the original Design Sprint, here’s a quick recap: the Design Sprint is a five-day process to solve big problems and test ideas. A dedicated team discusses a challenge, designs potential solutions, and tests them with real users. You start with something vague, and finish with real feedback and something extremely tangible in just five days.
“This year, we choose to show how design enables us to create a common future beyond all the differences, whether it’s for products, services, or public policy choices.” — Gaël Perdriau, Mayor of Saint-ÉtienneThe Saint-Étienne Design Biennale opens today in central France. Over the next month, the city will host a variety of exhibitions, events, and conferences that address salient topics in the design, art, and research community. As part of this year’s Biennale, the Material Design team collaborated with tech guru John Maeda to present the interactive exhibition Design in Tech. Opening this week at Cité du Design—and running until April 22—attendees can get hands-on with Material Design’s approach to color, typography, icons, and elevation, and explore key insights from Maeda’s 2019 Design in Tech Report. We hope to see you there! And for those that can’t make it, we’ve got an interview with Maeda and Material Design’s Rachel Been on the symbiotic (and evolving) relationship between design and development.Read “A New Religion for Designers”
What Google learned from their research is similar to what developed within IDEO over the course of 30 years where trust, purpose, and impact have evolved to become central to IDEO’s culture. There’s a focus on establishing trust and building relationships by designing intentional moments, which we call rituals. For example, IDEO’s weekly tea time ritual was designed as a way to encourage collaboration and “casual collisions”—a time when people step away from what they’re working on and connect with each other. Small, consistent moments like tea time are a prime way to deepen relationships and trust over time.
The design sprint reduces the risk of bringing a new product, feature or service to the market. The process helps teams to gain direct feedback from customers quickly, meaning new solutions and experiences can be iterated and improved before they are built and launched. The Design Sprint book was written and published by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. Designer Jake Knapp invented this successful 5-day process at Google. Since then the methodology has been accepted not only by Google ventures but by hundreds of successful brands across the globe.
The First principle incorporated in regular science is the "Design Thinking Cycle", which is new to the method. The cycle starts with you, envisioning the lives, dreams and anxieties of your customers. Then you define the problem you want to solve. After that you try to figure out as many solutions to that problem as you can imagine. Then you choose the most likely solution to be successful, you make a prototype of that solution and test its acceptance with your customers. Only after you have found a successful solution, you will invest in executing your business.
A design sprint is a time-constrained, five-phase process that uses design thinking with the aim of reducing the risk when bringing a new product, service or a feature to the market. It has been developed through independent work by many designers, including those within GV (formerly, Google Ventures), and those at Boston-Based User Experience Agency Fresh Tilled Soil. Two books have been published on the approach so far - one by Jake Knapp with co-authors John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz,[1] and another by C. Todd Lombardo, Richard Banfield, and Trace Wax[2]
A complete Sprint process involves user testing in the last two days. Scheduling is hard and resources are limited. It’s very easy to just do half of a Sprint and fall in love with the ideas your team come up with. A successful Sprint always include research with end users or at least internal people who is not in the Sprint team to validate the ideas. I would even recommend lower the fidelity of your prototype to squeeze in time for research. Testing some sketches on paper is definitely better than having a polished interactive prototype that haven’t been validated by anyone. You always learn something from user research, so you should always, always include research in your Sprint process.

Jake Knapp describes Design Sprints as a greatest hits of productivity, decision making, innovation, creativity, and design — and I think that’s true. But I recently took part in a sprint which modified this “greatest hits” formula heavily. My gut feeling was that these modifications were not beneficial, but since I was unfortunately not in a position to change the process, I chose to view it as an opportunity to gather data, and do a comparative analysis between this sprint, and the GV process outlined in the book — to learn, and to be more prepared for the next time around.

Some started as a product design or UX agency, who adopted the Design Sprint themselves in order to improve user experiences. By adopting the framework, the newly build digital products were not only embraced by their clients but even more so by its end-users. After implementing Design Sprint in their own agencies, they started training their clients, as well as outsiders. In this category, we find Design Sprint Academy (Germany, UK, Canada, Australia) AJ&Smart (Germany), Perspective (The Netherlands) and Hike One (The Netherlands).

Once everyone is BFFs, we introduce design sprints as a practice. We talk about how they fit into the bigger picture of business innovation, design thinking, and product development. We help attendees understand the work your team will need to do before the sprint, to ensure we’re connecting business value to the sprint, as well as choosing the right/best challenge.
Google could learn a lesson from REALM Charter School in Berkeley, California, where students put the principles of good design thinking into practice. Emily Pilloton, teacher and Studio H founder, wrote that design should be “an active response to a context . . . a social act that builds citizenship in the next generation.” Students in her program have built a school library, a farmers’ market, and an outdoor classroom. But before diving into the projects, they conduct ethnographic research to identify their community’s (or, in the case of the library and classroom, their own) needs.
The faculty at EMERITUS comprises professors who have been recognised for their contribution to thought leadership in management. They include Steve Eppinger (Design Thinking), Jared Curhan (Negotiation and Influence) and John Van Maanen (Leading Organisations) from MIT Sloan, Kathy Phillips & Adam Galinsky (Leading People & Teams) from Columbia Business School and Vijay Govindarajan (Leading Innovation Using the 3 Box Solution) and Marshall Goldsmith from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

“Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week. In the morning, you’ll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, you’ll make a map of the challenge. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts at your company to share what they know. Finally, you’ll pick a target: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.”
In 2012 and 2013, the Google Ventures team published a how-to series about Design Sprints, and the process started to spread. The Sprint book came out in 2016, and today, thousands of teams around the world have run sprints in 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).
‘How do people actually use our product?’ is a fundamental question that every product creator must answer. In order to answer this question, product designers need to understand the essence of the whole experience from the user’s perspective. User journey mapping is an excellent exercise that can shed light on that. What is a user journey map? User journey map is… Read More →
About 20% of people currently enrolled in our Design Sprint Masterclass have managed to get their company to pay for it, but so far everyone we’ve spoken to has said that regardless of whether they paid themselves or not, they feel like the investment will be totally worth it and that they’ll make the money back from the benefits of taking the course anyway (professional development, promotions, new client offerings, etc.)
In addition to encouraging curiosity and asking more questions, one tactic we use at IDEO to help companies evolve their culture to be more creative is what we call beacon projects—projects designed for teams to be able to break the norms of the organization. The role of these beacon projects is to challenge tightly held assumptions and processes and illustrate that new behavior is necessary to innovate. When teams or companies are deep in their industry, seeing and experiencing change will often increase their awareness to opportunities.
“For most organizations, doing some prototypes and a small beta test would be a good example of Design Thinking, but for a company with the heft of Google, they can absolutely afford to ‘launch’ something and see how it does without putting themselves at risk,” Rose wrote. “The amount of info that they learned from developing and launching it was incredible.”
Tip: Use the same currency exercise for all of your sprint prototypes, so that you can see how attitudes evolve with your design tweaks. For example, give each user $500 Monopoly dollars and see where they would invest their money. Designing a new shoe brand? Ask them which ones they’d buy, or if they’d prefer to spend the money on their tried-and-true Nikes. This exercise is about the conversation it provokes more than the payments themselves, so get curious!
Another important criterion is the expertise of the trainers, both into the subject as well as in training and facilitating teams and individuals. As mentioned before, some providers have build experience by applying the framework themselves, while building digital products. Others have a background as trainers (for example in Agile, Scrum or Design Thinking) and added Design Sprint training to their curriculum.