When To Do a Design Sprint and When To Do Something Else [Infographic]

“Colorful rolls of scotch tape, scissors and sticky notes on a table” by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

As popular as they are, Design Sprints are not ideal every time a product team wants to solve a problem.

Let’s quickly review what a Design Sprint is intended for. It is a problem-solving framework for product teams to get answers quickly and effectively. It is not intended to produce only design assets.

Due to its flexibility, it has become the go-to for time-boxed innovation sessions with an emphasis on collaborative ideation, solution sketching, prototype building, and user testing. However, that flexibility doesn’t translate to being an elixir for all problem solving.

When Do Design Sprints Have The Most Impact?

The format gives teams a way to focus the attention on the team on a very specific problem. The exercises embedded in the five phases are designed to reduce politics, increase collaboration across functions and put the focus on answers (outcomes) and not just assets (outputs).

The Understand phase of a Design Sprint is used to discover, understand (duh!) and define the problem that your customer is dealing with. If there’s not enough user research or access to customers to make this worthwhile then a Design Sprint might be premature.

How Do You Know If They Are Right For Your Project?

After years of real-world application and a lot of experimentation, the Design Sprint has grown up. It’s no longer just the domain of startups and innovation labs. Enterprises and high-growth companies are just as likely to use and benefit from Design Sprints.

The intensive format has proven surprisingly versatile to tens of thousands of participants across a wide range of companies. We’ve written about this before and invite you to see how Design Sprints can solve a broad range of problems.

The question of whether a Design Sprint is appropriate for your organization, however, isn’t necessarily as important or appropriate as the question: Is a Design Sprint right for my challenge?

Your Perspectives And Experiences

How do you ensure that your team is getting the most out of the Design Sprint framework and approach? Have you changed the proportions of the phases? Maybe you’ve spent more time in Understanding or reduced the need for ideation in the Diverge phase? Have you changed the name of Design Sprints to get more buy-in from colleagues and decision makers? Let us know how you’ve changed the format and exercise to suit your needs.


Workshop: Design Sprints at Scale

If you’re eager to get some practical experience with the Design Sprint methodology, join us at one of our free introductory workshops at our office or hire us to facilitate a Design Sprint at your offices.

These workshops aim to provide practical guidelines and tips for anyone running a Design Sprint in organizations of any size and stage — from small startups to large corporations. Attendees will receive a Design Sprint toolkit with a practical set of guidelines that include the critical before and after elements to maximize the value of a Design Sprint.

We wrote a book about this stuff. Buying it won’t make us rich, but you will defintiely get something useful out of it :) Design Sprint: A Practical Guidebook for Building Great Digital Products

Ready to start leading your team to creative outcomes?

Download two free chapters from my book Design Sprint: A Practical Guidebook for Building Great Digital Products.


We’re hosting UX Fest 2018 on June 4th just outside Boston. Join Andrew Forsthoefel, author of “Walking to Listen”, and hundreds of thoughtful people just like him at UX Fest 2018 and find your boundaries.


Originally published at www.freshtilledsoil.com on January 22, 2018.