Design sprints combine business strategy, design thinking and innovation techniques to solve knotty business problems in less than a week.

They start with something vague and end with a customer-tested prototype and heaps of insights.

Pioneered by Google, our design sprints help businesses take the first step towards an idea without breaking the bank. A quick and efficient way to find out if a new product is worth the effort without making large investments in time and money.

Design sprints work at their best on complex problems. Typically, our clients book them to solve these common challenges:

How they work

Each sprint is a series of focused workshops and exercises taking place in our studio in central London. We assemble a team of client experts, bolstered by a prototyper, researcher and facilitator from 100 Shapes.

We start with a big challenge and a clear calendar and end with a tangible prototype and actionable customer feedback. The whole process is highly interactive and user-focused.

On this page, we’ll describe the setup of the sprint, what to expect during the week, and the exact outcomes you’ll get.

Start with a big problem

Leaders and entrepreneurs tackle the hard questions every day: What will have the biggest impact? What will take the least amount of effort? When faced with a difficult problem, knowing where to start is often the hardest part.

Before the sprint kicks off, we work with key stakeholders and decision makers to target the right challenge. This process is called problem framing, we want to understand:

With our stakeholders all on the same page, we can hit the ground running and avoid endless debates.

Assemble the sprint team

Picking the right sprint team is crucial to the success of the week. We want to strike a balance between creativity, expertise and leadership.

The optimal team is five to seven people in total. From your side, we need a team who can answer critical questions about how things currently work, why they work that way, and how they could work in the future. This usually means experts in marketing, customers, tech and finance. And of course, we’ll need a decision-maker. Someone who knows the problem in depth and has criteria to help find the right solution.

We provide a senior designer and a researcher whose job it is to bring the concepts to life and run the customer testing.

The whole thing is coordinated by our facilitator who will guide the conversation, keep the discussion on schedule and balance the voices in the room to get the best outcome.

The sprint schedule

A design sprint is arranged to compress potentially months of work into just four days.

Each day is organised into individual and collaborative activities, which take place at certain times. The results of each day build on each other, so what you come up with on Monday is used as the starting point for Tuesday – and so on.

The challenges and how we solve them vary widely from project to project. The step-by-step structure of our Design Sprints is always the same.

Day 1: Assemble & Explore

Our teams come together and deep dive into to problem; collecting insights and getting creative with solutions.

We kick off with our expert interviews. This is a chance for everyone in the room to cross-examine those in the know about the problem space.

We want everyone to get a better understanding of the situation and align on our challenge.

Next, we agree to the long-term goal and spend the rest of the morning mapping out the challenge. We create a diagram showing each step and decision point in the current business process and pick our area of focus.

Armed with all these insights, we focus the rest of the day on coming up with as many inspiring solutions as we can. The focus here is on quantity over quality – don’t worry, we’ll provide plenty of structure and inspiration to get those creative brains buzzing.

Day 2: Refine & Storyboard

We come into the second day marvelling at all the sketched ideas. But we can’t prototype them all, so it’s time to focus and refine.

With all the solution sketches on the wall, everyone marks the ideas and areas they find most interesting. Our facilitator then quickly walks the team through each solution, highlighting the big idea. Each person then chooses one solution that has the best chance of achieving our long-term goal — the decision-maker has the final call.

With our winning solutions chosen, it’s tempting to immediately start building our prototype. But first we want to make a step-by-step plan so we know exactly how our prototype will fit together. We call this a storyboard.
Each team member breaks the journey down into simple steps and then we vote on the best one to prototype the next day.

With all the major decision-making out of the way, our team of client experts are free to go. Our 100 Shapes designer and researcher have all they need to prototype and test your idea.

Day 3: Bring your concepts to life

And just like that, prototyping begins. We have an idea for a solution and rather than investing weeks or months in building it, we’re going to fake it – in one day.

Our 100 Shapes team will create a prototype that looks and feels real. The goal is to create enough of a “facade” that it appears sufficiently life-like to test with customers.

To finish up the day, we will plan for tomorrow’s customer interviews: preparing structured questions to make sure the full prototype is reviewed.

Day 4: Testing with real customer

The final step is to validate all the thinking. This is important; without it, you can’t know if the new ideas are genuinely solving the problem.

We do this validation with the prototype in an activity called usability testing. It’s often called “User Testing” but that’s misleading – you’re not strictly testing the user. You’re testing the new idea, to decide if it has the desired effect.

Whilst our team run the testing, the rest of the sprint team have the chance to listen in and ask questions.

Back to the start

After interviews, we analyse all the feedback; looking for patterns and making sense of the results. We look back at our sprint goal and following a brief team discussion, the decision-maker chooses how to progress.
You end a dazzlingly productive week with a tangible representation of your product and real customer insights, which makes subsequent decision making much easier.

We make a presentation deck with a summary of all activities. It includes the key discussions and outputs for each day, photographs of the post-its we’ve collected, and links to any digital documents such as the prototype and the outputs from the customer interviews.

What we want, Reviewing user session post-its

What are the exact outputs?

A very realistic prototype tested with real customers and clear insights to guide your product plans. Your sprint report will contain:

Helping Britains best innovate

We’ve been working with ITV’s internal development teams to expand their operations to new digital platforms. With design sprint methods, we’ve been designing bespoke software for 6 years.

This hands-on way of designing has changed how ITV launch and learn really fast!

David Price – ITV Product Owner
Request a consultation with 100 Shapes

100 Shapes help industry leaders and startups alike create purposeful, human-centred products and services. Our expert team solve the toughest problems with strategy, design and development. To find out more, request a consultation.