Demystifying design
5 min read

How a Google Design Sprint works

By
Louise Hill
February 11, 2025
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Workshop with team. Sticky notes on the wall. A team of 4 people are looking at a screen of interfaces and discussing them.

Overview

TLDR: Invented at Google by Jake Knapp, and iterated on with John Zeratsky and the Google Ventures design team, a ‘Design Sprint’ is a structured problem-solving process which is conducted over 5 days.

Not to be confused with an Agile ‘sprint’—A Design Sprint is a series of intense workshops where teams come up with, and test out, new ideas for products, services or business challenges in just 5 days.Companies like Slack, Uber, Airbnb, Medium, LEGO, and even the United Nations have run Design Sprints.If you have a tricky challenge to solve with no obvious solution and you need a team with a variety of skills and knowledge to solve it, running a design sprint could be a great approach!

Who takes part?

Typically you need a team of around 6–7 people. Those 6–7 people need to clear their calendars for the 5 days. No running out for meetings or answering emails—for 5 days you are a problem-solving crack team. Your team will usually include:

  • a dedicated facilitator who runs the Design Sprint
  • a designer to create prototypes
  • a decision-maker to remove any blockages along the way
  • team members with a variety of domain expertise

A Design Sprint contains all the ingredients of design thinking, conducted at lightning speed.

What happens each day?

Monday—Understand

To kick off the Design Sprint you will:

  • map out the opportunity space to visualise and share as much information as possible across the whole Design Sprint team in the shortest amount of time
  • hold short interviews with experts on your team who can share their knowledge
  • agree the target area for the rest of the week

Tuesday—Sketch

The goal of Tuesday is to come up with solutions, you will:


  • sketch out solutions in a way optimised for volume using critical thinking
  • channel ideas not artistic masterpieces (you do not have to be a wonderful drawer!)

Wednesday—Decide

The goal of Wednesday is to vote on your ideas and draw up a plan for your chosen solution. You will:

  • decide which of these solutions will be prototyped and tested out using sticky dot voting
  • create a storyboard for the flow of your prototype

Thursday—Prototype

Thursday is all about creating your simulated solution. You will:

  • build a realistic prototype to simulate your solution

Friday—Test

On Friday you will quickly see your prototype in the wild and receive fast feedback. You will:

  • show your prototype to five target end-users in 5 1-on-1 interviews
  • get quick answers to your riskiest assumptions and questions right away

What’s an example?

If you use Slack, you might be familiar with the Slackbot which shows you around Slack when you sign in for the first time. The Slackbot concept was actually created and prototyped during a Design Sprint to tackle Slack’s rapid expansion and onboarding needs back in 2015.

What do you need?

Google Design Sprints can be held on-site or remotely.

On-site you will need a dedicated room, sticky notes a-plenty, a camera for capturing all your workings, and some whiteboards for sketching out flowcharts and jotting down key thoughts along the way.

Remotely, you can use video conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams and tools like Miro and Mural to make the magic happen—these collaboration tools make it easy to keep all your sketches and diagrams in one place in a dedicated workshop board.

If you’d like to learn more about Design Sprints you can read the book Sprint, which covers even more about running an effective Design Sprint.

How can I help you with a Design Sprint?

I can facilitate a Design Sprint for your team, or create prototypes for you during the process. Not sure if a Design Sprint is the right approach for tackling your challenge? I can help you determine whether it is best-suited to your needs.