The design sprint - a working prototype in 5 days

You have probably heard of it - the design sprint. But we would still like to write a few things about it, because we notice that the approach to it is not clear to everyone.

design sprint

The design sprint was developed by Jake Knapp from Google Ventures and combines strategy, innovation, behavioral science, and design thinking into one process.

The idea is that you can test the feasibility of an idea for a new digital product within five days. So in 5 days you go from an idea to a working prototype tested by end users. This way you avoid long meetings and a long duration with the chance that you invest a lot in something that won’t appeal to the end user or won’t be entirely satisfactory.

Pure ideas

Compare the design sprint with a pressure cooker, in which processes are accelerated and something is prepared in a short time. The process is pretty intensive and requires an investment in time and energy from both our team and that of the customer. Several people from both teams are involved in the sprint. But it produces surprising results. The teams get to know each other and especially the end user. And the pressure of time also provides original solutions. Due to lack of time there is no room for politics or concessions, and that creates a certain 'purity' in the ideas developed during the sprint.

The five days of the design sprint are organized as follows:

  • 1


    Exploring the issue and identifying problems
  • 2


    Brainstorming, inventing as many solutions as possible
  • 3


    Comparing all solutions and choosing the best solution
  • 4


    Creating a working prototype for testing
  • 5


    Testing with customers or other users.

Graphic design

We call it a design sprint. Then you would expect that it would always involve graphic design. But that's not true. It is all about designing a concept, content, and/or function of a digital product. Only when the design sprint is complete and the product has been thoroughly tested by the target group we enter the design phase. In it we work out a design based on the wireframes made during the design sprint.

Our interpretation

A design sprint is very useful when you want to develop a complicated digital product that costs a lot of time and money. In that case an investment of five days with a team of, for example, five people is relatively easy to manage. But the principle of a design sprint can certainly be applied to smaller projects too. We understand that a five-day design sprint is often too expensive or too large for small projects. At Novaware we use the design sprint principle, but give it a different interpretation per project without losing the power of the tool.

Not all issues are equally complicated and sometimes we shorten the design sprint. But we always go through all the steps. It also happens that testing is scheduled at a later time.

In projects for our clients we start more and more often with the design sprint. We receive feedback that it is a very pleasant way to work. Especially the way you work together towards the right solution. This method also saves a lot of design and development time in a follow-up process and therefore a lot of costs. And when a certain solution works less well, it is already clear at an early stage.

Points of attention

The power of a design sprint is in the pace. It is important that this pace remains. In working with a small group you have a lot of strength and little discussion. The important question when a discussion seems to become too long is whether the discussion contributes to the end result. If not, you park it.

A relaxed and positive atmosphere is very important to come to good ideas. There is not much time and it is a lot of work, but avoids stress and rushing the job.

Everyone must stand behind the decisions during the design sprint, but especially a week or two later. Due to the short turnaround time you can make quick decisions in this flow that you cannot support later. Be critical of all decisions that are made.