How Design Sprints Changed My Life

Ok, maybe the title is a tad over dramatic. But in all honesty adding process and rigor around my design process has brought nothing but good to how I work, how I feel and how use my spare time. So in that regard, yes design sprints HAVE changed my life.

Let me start from the beginning. When I started working at my current position I was just kind of thrown into the deep end. There was no formal process defined and I felt like I was drowning most of the time. I would go off in a corner and design my little heart out, only to share it with the development team and have it ripped apart. My designs weren’t bad, but they didn’t meet the needs of the team at the point we were at in the development cycle.

“But we work at a user centered design company. We HAVE to put the users first” -me. This was becoming my mantra at every meeting, every standup, every design review. And even though it’s valid and true, I was tired of saying it and I know they got tired of hearing it.

In this case my users were not only the general public, but also the engineering team. My engineers faith in me was wavering and I could really feel the distance between us. That’s a whole other article in itself, but you get the picture.

Long story short, I felt like I would design, engineering would balk, then do whatever they wanted to do to get the project going. Then I would have to retro-fit my designs to their engineering whims so I would have something to share with the leadership team. Not the best way to work. We all wanted the same thing, but in the end we were not effective in how were were “collaborating.” I’m using quotation marks here because we didn’t really collaborate as much as we tolerated each other.

Go team??

I was spending hours upon hours redesigning and testing and researching. There were days I wouldn’t leave the office until well after 8 and 9 pm for days at a time. I remember one time in particular I spent 7 days in a row getting designs ready to review with the company founder. I was here on Sunday’s folks. It was not pretty. Physically I was breaking down, mentally there was nothing left and emotionally I was on the verge of tears a few times. I’m awkward enough as it is. The last thing I need to do is add public break-downs to the list of quirks that make me…well…me.

What’s a designer to do? I was wondering when I’d ever get out of this discouraging holding pattern. Le sigh indeed!

Well a couple of weeks later I happened upon an article titled “Anatomy of an Iteration” and the proverbial lightbulb finally came on. This is what I was looking for! Well sort of. I didn’t end up sticking to the process outlined in this article, but i was able to craft my own process that worked for me and my team.

Fast forward about a month and we’re now working as a cohesive team crushing it and collaborating regularly. We meet every Monday and settled on doing week long design sprints. Right now it’s enough to meets our needs. If we find we need to change in the future then we can decide as a team to do so. I’m not here to say my way is the best way, but it works and that’s all I ever wanted.

Well mostly. There is a lot more to learn, but we’re on the right path. I’m getting home at a decent hour, I’m about a sprint and a half ahead of the team with designs and most importantly I feel like my team of engineers trusts me. I don’t have to be defensive about my designs because they helped me design them. Did they get into Photoshop or Illustrator and actually grind some designs out? Nope. But they finally have a voice in what OUR finished product looks like. One of the most awesome benefits that I didn’t even expect is that they PUSH my thinking outside of the box.

I’d like to conclude by saying engineers are awesome….go give one a hug if you have one near by. Just ignore their screams and envelop them in your loving embrace lol. How’s that for a Monday post?

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