Hack week Vs Design sprint?

Jeremy Keith
Feb 21, 2019 · 2 min read

Our hack week at CERN to reproduce the WorldWideWeb browser was five days long. That’s also the length of a design sprint. So …was what we did a design sprint?

I’m going to say no.

On the surface, our project has all the hallmarks of a design sprint. A group of people who don’t normally work together were thrown into an instense week of problem-solving and building, culminating in a tangible testable output. But when you look closer, the journey itself was quite different. A design sprint is typical broken into five phases, each one mapped on to a day of work:

  1. Understand and Map
  2. Demos and Sketch
  3. Decide and Storyboard
  4. Prototype
  5. Test
Gathered at CERN, hunched over laptops.
Gathered at CERN, hunched over laptops.

There was certainly plenty of understanding, sketching, and prototyping involved in our hack week at CERN, but we knew going in what the output would be at the end of the week. That’s not the case with most design sprints: figuring out what you’re going to make is half the work. In our case, we knew what needed to be produced; we just had to figure out how. Our process looked more like this:

  1. Understand and Map
  2. Research and Sketch
  3. Build
  4. Build
  5. Build

Now you could say that it’s a kind of design sprint, but I think there’s value in reserving the term “design sprint” for the specific five-day process. As it is, there’s enough confusion between the term “sprint” in its agile sense and “design sprint”.

This was originally posted on my own site.

Clear Thinking

Opinions and learnings from the team at Clearleft.

Jeremy Keith

Written by

A web developer and author living and working in Brighton, England.

Clear Thinking

Since 2005 our purpose has been to advance the practice of design to transform organisations and people’s lives for the better.

Jeremy Keith

Written by

A web developer and author living and working in Brighton, England.

Clear Thinking

Since 2005 our purpose has been to advance the practice of design to transform organisations and people’s lives for the better.

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