Having a basic knowledge of Design Sprint phases will make running a successful Design Sprint easier than ever. While most people leave sprint facilitation to the more design-minded, the truth is that any qualified facilitator can learn how to run a sprint. 

The term Design Sprint refers to the five-day process that centers on design methodology and uses design thinking as a framework. Though the word design is involved, the reality is that anyone can learn how to execute the Design Sprint phases, whether they are a designer or not.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What Are Design Sprints For?
  • The Five Design Sprint Phases 
  • Design Sprints Aren’t Just for Designers

What Are Design Sprints For?

A Design Sprint is a process used to validate ideas and problem solve. Created by Jake Knapp, Design Sprints are “The ‘greatest hits’ of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, and more — packaged into a step-by-step process that any team can use.” 

Every sprint consists of five Design Sprint phases, each of which encourages participants to consider human-centered solutions to complex problems. 

Within each phase, facilitators will work to help their team:

  • Understand: Identify and understand the end-users problem areas 
  • Ideate: Develop potential solutions to the main problem
  • Decide: Transform the best ideas into a hypothesis
  • Prototype: Create a realistic prototype
  • Test: Get feedback from users in real-time

The Five Design Sprint Phases 

Successful sprints begin with first-hand experience of Design Sprint phases. While Design Sprints range in complexity based on one’s needs, thoroughly understanding each phase of a Design Sprint will make the entire process easier. 

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Though each phase varies, the five Design Sprint phases are easily broken into a five-day process.

A typical sprint includes the flowing phases:

1. Monday: Exploration Phase

The main goal in the exploration phase is to jumpstart creativity and to encourage multiple solutions throughout the next Design Sprint phases. At this point, participants will identify the long-term goal and map out the plan of action to tackle the challenge. 

Beginning: You’ll start the Design Sprint off with a structured discussion to plan out the weeklong process. In the initial phase of the Design Sprint, your team will begin by considering their business from different perspectives. 

Middle: Experts will then share their experiences and knowledge with the team in 10 -14 minute sessions. Participants will use shared knowledge to focus on collaborating as a unit and developing a shared brain.

Each member will share different elements relating to the problem while the facilitator captures all the information shared through a whiteboard. The other team members will reference this information throughout the sprint process. Ultimately, the team should explore as many possibilities as they can, regardless of how viable or realistic they are during this phase.

End: As the first phase concludes, the team selects a target: a manageable part of the problem the team will solve during the week.

With a better understanding of the end-user and the product, team members can move on to the next phase.

2. Tuesday: The Sketch Phase

The main objective of the sketch phase is to develop different action plans that will result in the most viable solutions.  

Beginning: In the next phase of a Design Sprint, team members will begin to translate ideas into tangible solutions. The design process during this phase may include adding new features or redesigning a project. 

The day will begin with inspiration as the team reviews which ideas to improve and remix. At this part of the process, facilitators will encourage continued brainstorming.

Middle: By mid-day, team members will sketch using a four-step process to emphasize critical thinking:

1. Review key information

2. Design ideas on paper

3. Consider many variations

4. Create detailed solutions

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These activities help team members develop well-formed concepts as they clarify the challenge. Facilitators can use templates like Mural and Miro to stimulate further ideation.

End: The team will finish the phase by identifying customers to include in the final testing phase.

3. Wednesday: The Decision Phase

During the decision phase, your team will have many solutions to contend with. At this point, it’s time to decide on a solid plan of action and select the ideas that will be prototyped. 

Beginning: Start this phase by critiquing each solution. Team members should consider the solutions that they’ll be able to achieve with the time and resources available.

Middle: Toward the middle of the day, the team will choose the solutions that are most viable for meeting the long-term goal. Consider voting to determine the best solution to pursue. 

End: Team members will choose the best options from the sketch phase and implement them in a storyboard. This is the step-by-step plan for the prototyping phase. 

4. Thursday: The Prototype Phase

The prototype in this phase is essentially an experiment used to test a hypothesis. In this phase, the team decides what they will build to receive feedback and validate the hypothesis.

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Beginning: This phase starts with the team developing a realistic prototype to test with users. This prototype should be finished in one day.

Middle: After developing the prototype, confirm the schedule for the test, review the prototype, and develop an interview script.
End: Finalize everything for the Friday user test.

5. Friday: The Validate Phase

The final phase is likely the most crucial one. Team members will test their prototype with live users. 

Beginning: Live users will test the prototype and provide feedback. This information will pinpoint various issues in the product’s design. This will allow team members to make improvements.

Middle: In a Design Sprint, each team member will participate in the validation session.  The goal is to capture the learnings and apply various concepts as the team gains user feedback. An interviewer is necessary to facilitate the discussion with five potential users. The end-users involved are target customers that will react to the solution.

End: As the Design Sprint phases come to a close, your team will know exactly what steps to take to finalize the solution and what comes next.

Design Sprints Aren’t Just for Designers

If you want to run a Design Sprint but are not a designer, that isn’t a problem. Any qualified facilitator can run a Design Sprint and these sessions benefit companies of every industry. The best Design Sprint facilitators bring the necessary knowledge and skills to share with their teams. 

These facilitators effectively lead group discussions and manage team dynamics as they select the next course of action in their Design Sprint scenario. The best facilitators are those that are in tune with design methodology and are well-versed in Design Sprint phases. Most Design Sprint facilitators also work as agile coaches, strategists, UX designers, consultants, product managers, and similar roles. 

Want to get started running Design Sprints?

Design sprint certification can help you learn the ins and outs of Design Sprints as you strengthen your facilitation skills and gain confidence in the process. 

With Voltage Control Design Sprint classes, you’ll learn more about the five-day process and how you can run your own. Sign up today and stay tuned for information on our Design Sprint certification. 

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