The Design Sprint for collaborative and effective design

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Accelerate innovation and make decisions based on user feedback: how the Design Sprint can reduce the time to design and validate solutions.


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What is Design Sprint?

The Design Sprint is a collaborative design process developed and popularized by designer Jake Knapp, along with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. The process was developed within Google Venture to rapidly test and validate ideas and solutions, through co-design, prototyping and user-testing techniques.

The goal of the Design Sprint is to obtain tangible results in a much shorter time frame than traditional approaches, accelerating the processes of interaction, prototyping and validation, and allowing the team to make decisions based on user feedback.

“The bigger the challenge, the better the Sprint”

The Sprint is an ideal tool for developing and testing solutions that would usually take months (or years): the ideas and solutions implemented through the Sprint during testing can “fail”; but even from bankruptcy it is possible to receive many indications on how to proceed with the development of the project, in a few days, without major economic and time investments.

Design Sprint was born to develop digital projects and services, but today it is used in very different contexts.

The phases of the Design Sprint

The Design Sprint, developed from the Design Thinking philosophy, consists of 5 key phases:

  1. Comprehension. The team dives into the problem and gains an in-depth understanding of people needs, business challenges, and project goals.
  2. Definition. Identify key challenges and set a clear goal for the Design Sprint. Measurable success criteria are established.
  3. Ideation. Ideas are generated and different solutions are explored to address the problem. Brainstorming techniques and creative stimulation are used to encourage the generation of innovative ideas.
  4. Prototyping. A tangible prototype of the chosen solution is created. This can be a low-fidelity prototype, such as a mockup or storyboard, or a high-fidelity prototype that represents how the idea works.
  5. Testing and validation. The prototype is shown to people or participants, who provide feedback and comments. This is a very important phase, as what has been designed is analyzed directly in the field. Tests can be conducted individually or in groups to gauge people’s reactions and gather useful data and information.

Traditionally months of work are required to develop a project following these phases, but the goal of the Design Sprint is to condense them into one week of intense work. Below is an example of the execution of a Design Sprint.


Define the long-term goals of the project
Fundamental to define the priorities and objectives of the company

Mapping the “challenge”
Define the user-flow of the users involved in using the product or service.

“Nobody know everything”
Each participant shares their knowledge related to the various areas of the project and the other team members have the opportunity to ask questions and take notes.

Define the problems and choose a target
At the end of the day, the issues to be addressed are identified and the final target of the sprint is chosen.


Take inspiration
Existing ideas and solutions from competitors and in alternative markets are shared and analysed, from which to draw inspiration.

Through guided techniques, each team member represents his ideas and solutions.


The objective of the 3rd day is to choose which solution(s) will be prototyped, through the analysis and discussion of the ideas developed the previous day.
The whole team is involved in the choice, but the final decision rests with a Decider (appointed before the Sprint).

Using the winning ideas, a storyboard is created which will be the basis for generating the prototype.


Starting from the storyboard, a prototype of the project/service is developed.


Learn by customer
Even the best idea has to collide with reality: the prototype is tested with a limited number of people (5-6) in the presence of a moderator.

Take notes
From a separate room, the rest of the team observes the tests in real time and takes notes. At the end of the tests, the notes are shared to identify positive and negative patterns and draw conclusions.

Throughout the entire process, the team works collaboratively, adopting an open mind and experimenting with solutions without setting limits. These phases guide the team through a structured and focused process to obtain rapid and validated results, providing a solid basis for future decisions on product design and development.

The importance of collaborative design

The Design Sprint is all about co-design, and choosing who to include on the team is critical.
The team must be composed of 5-8 components, with heterogeneous roles. Stakeholder participation in the Design Sprint is critical to its success.

Stakeholders are individuals or groups interested in or affected by the project outcome and can include executives, end users, industry experts, and other key members of the organization. Involving stakeholders in the Design Sprint allows for a more complete and diversified view of the problem to be addressed, leading to more effective and adoptable solutions.

Collaborative design - Codesign

Their participation helps to better understand user needs, business challenges, technical restrictions and other critical factors. Furthermore, involving stakeholders in the ideation, prototyping and testing process allows them to actively contribute, providing valuable feedback and suggestions that will influence the final result. The goal is to create a collaborative environment where different perspectives can be integrated, enabling more informed decision making and smoother implementation of solutions.


Priorities, problems and possible solutions are defined through the Sprint; probably not all the questions will be answered, but surely great progress will be made, thanks to the successes – but also failures – of the tests.
The Sprint is not the end of a process, but the beginning.

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12 July 2023 Christopher Secolo

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TAG: user testing experience design product and service design