What Is a Design Sprint?


A design sprint is a process born at Google, that allows teams to align on a specific problem, generate a mass of solutions, prototype, test and learn from real users in just a few days. (In the sample provided below the design sprint process is just a few hours.) The intensity and length of a design sprint enables co-designers to join in activities that build on and connect to each other.  Ideas come quickly at first and then are built upon as the process gets deeper and more focused.

Co-designers participate in a series of phases with the first step focusing on developing a shared understanding of areas to explore through co-design sessions.  This step often brings in an expert (or group of experts) to quickly provide an overview of the focus topic.  In work related to mental health and VR, an expert on the topic of teen mental health will help to bring this shared understanding to the group. (See Elin Bjorling video on this topic)

The primary phases of a design sprint are:

  • Map: This phase of the design sprint gives all involved the chance to gain a shared understanding of the work at hand, the goals, and the ways in which the goals will be achieved. The map phase helps the co-designers come up with a focus for their product.
  • Sketch: In the sketch phase of a design sprint, co-designers draw what they think the product will look like. This can include general sketches of ideas and more specific sketches in the form of storyboards that highlight a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Decide: Co-designers review what has been created and discussed and decide what are the best options.
  • Prototype: In the prototype phase, co-designers take what has been decided as the best option (or possible options) and create a sample of what that might look like when produced.
  • Test: The test phase puts the prototype product in front of those who will use it once produced in order to get feedback and ideas for revisions. (The test phase is not a part of the design sprint outlined below.)

For each of the phases there are a variety of activities you can facilitate in order to reach the design goal.  As you plan your design sprint you will want to consider the goals you are working towards and the makeup of the design group to determine the best activities to use for your purposes. Also, know that the phases are not always sequential and you may go back and forth between phases as you work through the sprint methods. However, design sprint methods build and connect to each other, so as you plan the sprint you’ll want to make sure that the connections and building blocks that create continuity are in place.

To get started learning about the different types of design sprint methods, review the Google Design Sprint Kit.

Why Include a Design Sprint

While the design sessions you host help you learn with teens how VR provides opportunities for positive mental health, the design sprint gives you the chance to use what is learned during the design sessions to determine what makes sense to include in a mental health focused VR experience for teens.

The design sprint should happen between the third and sixth design sessions. You can facilitate the sprint when you believe the teens have built strong relationships,  are invested in the project and process, and are comfortable and confident talking with each other about mental health.  The design sprint is the entry point to the actual design of the VR experience. The earlier in the process you host the sprint the more time the VR developers will have to work on the experience. However, it should not happen too soon in the process as the relationship building is essential to a successful design sprint of this type.