Design Sprints: Prototyping Your Idea At Light Speed

Is someone in your business thinking about implementing a Design Sprint? Or has one of your employees asked what you think of the design print process? Maybe you want to learn more about design sprint methodology? Whatever your reasons for landing on this page, we hope that you learn a lot more about design sprints, and how design sprints might work for your organization. More and more corporations are using design sprints to cut through red tape and the time it takes for traditional methods of designing and producing unique products.

The design sprint process is an intensive, highly-focused team effort to recognize a problem, then work as a team to brainstorm solutions, and develop a realistic prototype to solve the problem. Once you gain feedback on your prototype, you can start to understand how to refine your product design for real users.

A design sprint is one business strategy that takes a lot of energy from all the members of the sprint team, but the end result is worth it. To learn more about design sprints, let's start with the definition.

What is a Design Sprint?

A design sprint is a term initiated by GV (formerly Google Ventures) to describe an intensive design process focused on designing a single product with your design sprint team.

Google Ventures developed the sprint as a fast-paced, five-day process to build and test a realistic prototype that de-risks an important assumption or question about a product, without needing to actually build or launch that product.

And don't confuse a design sprint with a development sprint; a development sprint is specific to agile software development.

A design sprint is a small team process created to shortcut drawn-out debates and compress several months' time into one week of design thinking and testing ideas. Instead of lingering months to determine if a design is solid and ready to launch to manufacturing, you can answer critical business questions before investing significant resources toward your clearly defined goals.

This page is a Design Sprint Guide, to give you an overview of how you can use the design sprint to rapidly move your organization forward without major risks.

Why Would You Need to Run a Design Sprint?

When should you consider running a design sprint? This is a question that your design and management teams need to consult on. But, at its core, the design sprint is a fast-paced, five-day process to build and test a high-fidelity prototype with the goal of de-risking significant assumptions or critical business questions about a product. And this is all done without needing to actually build or launch a functional, working product.

A design sprint can save you hundreds or thousands of hours and reduce your financial investment into a problematic product, long before a product goes to market. With a minimal investment of resources, you can prove or dis-prove salient assumptions or problems before any long-term production begins.

The Benefits of a Design Sprint

A design sprint offers several benefits for product designers.

Significantly Reduce Design Time

With a design sprint, you can collapse weeks (and sometimes months!) of work into a 5-day time period. You can do this because instead of email threads, follow-up meetings, and other concurrent project distractions, all of the key stakeholders drop everything else to focus on a singular goal for those 5 days.

Foster an Efficient Collaborative Design Environment

Reducing design time alone is a worthy consideration, but there are other benefits for designers. In addition to reducing total calendar time, sprints also use facilitation best practices to create an efficient, collaborative environment that ensures that all voices and perspectives are heard, while still driving towards a decision that moves the work forward.

How to Pitch a Design Sprint

Pitching a design sprint requires persuading three different teams about how a design sprint will benefit them and help them reach a long-term goal. These teams are:

  • Clients
  • Developers
  • Designers

Pitching to Your Client

Important points to use when pitching a design sprint to clients.

  • Sprints reduce time and money.
  • Everyone understands business goals from the get-go.
  • Sprints generate products that people use.
  • Everyone on the project is brought together.
  • Sprints are better than focus groups

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” — Steve Jobs

Pitching to Your Developers

Developers need to understand why you want to implement a design sprint.

  • You are part of the project from Day One.
  • A sprint gives you an opportunity to switch gears for a week.
  • This is similar to agile in development.
  • Preparation will be smoother (API spec).
  • There will be fewer changes once development starts.

Pitching to Your Designers

Your design team is used to your standard design schedule. A design sprint changes that.

  • You'll save days or even weeks of work.
  • You'll better understand the reason for the design.
  • You'll get a seat at the table.
  • You'll get feedback from real users.
  • A sprint challenge offers an opportunity to brush up on your skills.

How to Execute a Design Sprint in 5 Days

Okay, you've persuaded all of the stakeholders that you should execute a design sprint. What does that mean exactly? Each day has a specific purpose to execute. Here is the outline of your week.

  1. Monday - make a map of the problem.
  2. Tuesday - sketch solutions.
  3. Wednesday - decide which sketches are strongest.
  4. Thursday - build a realistic prototype.
  5. Friday - test that prototype with five target customers.

Let's break this process down step-by-step.

Set the Stage

Before executing your design sprint, you need to prepare for the team. Considerations are:

  1. Identify a big important challenge worth five days of focused work.
  2. Recruit a team with diverse skills.
  3. Locate and reserve a room that has what the team will need.
  4. Gather tools and supplies.

Break Down Sprint into Achievable Goals

Okay, everyone is signed on to the sprint. You've reserved the room, and have all the supplies. Let's make sure each day's sprint goal is clear.

Day 1 Monday: Understand the Problem

Monday activities are all about ensuring that everyone participating in the sprint is starting from the same shared understanding of the problem.

  • Through structured activities, the group will align on the long-term goal for the products and the biggest, riskiest open questions that need to be answered to achieve that goal.
  • A sprint cannot answer everything! The goal is not to define all aspects of the product, but instead to shed light on the most urgent questions or issues that are holding the team back.
  • Once the team has identified the open questions, the next step is to frame the problem from the perspective of the end-user.
  • What do the users need?
  • What are their current pain points?
  • At this stage, it is critical to not phrase the problems as solutions.
  • You just need to understand what users need to achieve, leaving room for many possible ways to help them achieve that goal.
  • Finally, the group selects the specific pain points that represent the biggest risk or opportunity.

Day 2 Tuesday: Ideate the Solutions

Tuesday is when you finally get to talk about solutions!

  • The day is comprised of several, intentionally designed brainstorming activities that build on each other.
  • This sequence ensures that the group thinks about the problem from multiple angles to identify as many solutions as possible.
  • In addition, combining individual thinking time with larger discussions helps avoid group-think.
  • By the end of the day, you will have a wide variety of solutions to take into Wednesday.

Day 3 Wednesday: Decide on the Best Solution to Test

Wednesday activities help the group narrow down to a specific solution to test with end-users.

  • The activities on Wednesday guide the team through the process of critiquing each solution and identifying the distinct components that best solve the users' pain points.
  • The day culminates with a vote that selects the solution most worthy of testing.
  • The group then creates a high-level storyboard that captures the entire experience they hope to test with users.
  • This storyboard becomes the blueprint for the prototype that you create on Day 4.

Day 4 Thursday: Create a Prototype

Thursday is entirely dedicated to building a prototype that will help you test your solution.

  • A prototype does not need to be a fully-functional version of the solution. It just needs to feel real enough to gather feedback.
  • This means you could create a prototype that mimics the functionality but does not look anything like the desired end product.
  • Or, you could create a "looks like" model that does not actually function, but is believable enough to gather feedback on aesthetics and the desirability of basic features.
  • The requirements for the prototype completely depend on what questions you are trying to answer.

Day 5 Friday: Test with Real Users

Time to put your solution to the test! On Friday you will show your prototype to 5 - 7 real end-users that fit your target customer profile.

  • The goal is not to try to sell your idea to them, but to get raw, honest feedback on whether your design actually addresses the user's needs.

Learn from Feedback

There are many reasons that direct feedback can help you redirect or refine your design. After all, users are critical to the design process. If potential users try out your new design and point out things that you didn't think were important, revamping your design in response to honest feedback will make it much more popular with the people you want to sell it to.

Key Takeaways from Day 5

After taking your team through the design sprint process, what takeaways should you understand?

  1. The User is King. (Picture a trumpet entrance) This process is focused completely on the user, and their response is the most important feedback.
  2. Considers All Perspectives. Since everyone is gathered into one group for a design sprint, you can cut through department delays and red tape.
  3. It's Efficient and Effective. The design sprint is customized to eliminate any delays, red tape, and realize a useable result in five days.
  4. Manages Stakeholder Expectations. Since your stakeholders are involved with the design process, you can negotiate their buy-in at the design stage.
  5. Learn Fast, Fail Fast - The sprint forces you to determine the viability of your goals, refine your vision, and work out complex problems at the beginning of the product design, and it saves you countless hours of design, engineering, and development costs. And you get your product to market at record speed.

Need Help Starting Your Design Sprint?

Ovyl is the ideal partner to work with from start to finish when you want to manufacture a new product. Ovyl offers services in three categories to work with your team.

  • Strategy
  • Development
  • Production

Ovyl will help you when the sprint begins with your product strategy figuring out the parameters of your project. They will also help you create your industrial design for your product to accomplish the goals you've set.

Need help getting the electrical engineering figured out? Ovyl will assist you.

Ovyl will also lend a hand with your software and firmware development to make sure your product does what it's supposed to.

Mechanical engineering is of equal importance when producing a unique product. Ovyl's mechanical engineers offer their experience and guidance.

And to produce the final product, you need to source suppliers and work with a manufacturer you trust. Ovyl helps organizations across the spectrum plan, implement, and produce products. Ovyl prioritizes honesty and transparency and works with your team to create new products that you can be proud of.

Are you ready to learn more about planning a design sprint? Contact us to learn more.

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