Design Thinking vs Design Sprints, what’s the difference?
Jonathan Courtney

I’m actually not thrilled with the way the two methodologies are explained here. The way I understood the difference…

Empathy, Define, Design, Prototype, Iterate. Empathy is about user research, discovering patterns that influence behavior that help us Define the problem users have. Design is solving that problem, using the data we found. Prototyping is building out the product and Iterating is looping through Design and Prototype over and over to create the best possible product we can.

Design Thinking incorporates User Research, in order to find Patterns that create User Behavior that informs our Designs.

Design Sprints drop the bulk of User Research (Empathy and Define) to instead try and guess what the Designs should be via brainstorming sessions, and then prototype and iterate over and over in a “Fail Fast, Fail Often” style of development. In other words, you could say they use the latter half of the Design Thinking methodology. In a way, you could say it’s a shortcut.

The tradeoffs are that Design Thinking often requires more upfront costs and time, but result in more successful products because they were developed off of quantifiable human data, while Design Sprints are cheaper initially, but require a longer period of iteration to arrive at successful products, because we’re trying to dictate what we think users are looking for.

I think Design Sprints are popular cause designers love prototyping (I mean, our tools have gotten really good). Doing User Research is time consuming, costly, and isn’t as much fun, so there’s that too.

To be perfectly clear, you can find success with Design Sprints, but I just don’t think Design Sprints is always the best solution.

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