What is Design Sprint?

Design sprints are a framework for teams of any size to solve and test design problems in 2-5 days. The idea of sprints originates with the Agile framework. The idea of design thinking was developed at IDEO and the d.school at Stanford. These frameworks were adapted to the idea of “design sprints” thanks to the Google UX teams, Google Ventures and Google [x] and teams across the industry.

While sprints are popular at Google, they are also used by startups and companies of any size.

What is a Sprint Master?

A Sprint Master is the lead of the team. This is the person who identifies the design challenge for the sprint, brings the team together and takes them through all sprint stages. This is a special role that requires the deep understanding of UX methods, strategy, facilitation, and negotiation. It takes time and practice to develop these skills, but we’ve learned that this role makes a critical difference in aligning the team and ensuring great results.

Typically, Sprint Masters are UX Researcher and Designers: leaders who have deep knowledge of the design process and are not afraid to challenge their team to collaborate and win together quickly.

What do Sprint Masters do?

The Sprint is something to design. This is the job of the Sprint Master.

A good Sprint Master follows a workflow of the task to do before, during and after the sprint.

Their success depends on their ability to lead the team, project manage and understands UX methods that work in short time frames.

This work takes time. Plan 1 day of prep work for every day of sprint time.

Before the sprint

The critical task before the sprint is to formulate a meaningful design challenge that the sprint will center around. A great design challenge is inspiring, short and specifies the target use groups and deliverables of the sprint.

Second to that, the Sprint Master has to invite the team, and schedule lightning talks and user studies for the Understand and Validation sections of the sprint.

Lastly, preparing a facilitators deck and booking a room help make sure the sprint goes smoothly.

Write a design brief

  • Define challenge 

  • Timeline to launch 

  • Invite the team

  • Schedule lightning talks
  • Schedule user testing
  • Prepare a facilitator’s deck
  • Prepare the room 

During the sprint

When the sprint starts, the Sprint Master assumes a facilitator role. They announce the schedule and exercises, keep time, and invite everyone to participate.

Often the team has to change course from the initial plan; the Sprint Master ensures the team makes decisions quickly and gets to meet their goal on time.

  • Prep the space
  • Facilitate

  • Appoint leaders
  • Course correct
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Daily check ins
  • Daily email summary
  • Celebrate


After the sprint

Sprints typically end with much excitement and joy: the team has created the impossible in 2-5 days. A good Sprint Master keeps that great energy going by creating a follow up plan, sharing the results and surveying participants to learn how to keep making sprints better in the future.

  • Create a path to launch
  • Document

  • Summary email

  • Survey to sprinters
  • Next sprint planning 

Before The Sprint

Sprint Challenge Statement

Before the sprint starts, the Sprint Master has to select the key challenge for the team. This will drive all the work and testing. A good challenge statement is:

  • Relevant

  • Tied to the team goals
  • Concise 

  • Inspiring 

  • Focused on a target audience or target segment

Select and invite the sprint team

The sprint team should include designers, engineers, product managers and experts.

The ideal team size is 5-8 people. Larger teams should be split into smaller teams working on the same challenge or separate challenges depending on your desired deliverables.

Lead a design audit on the current product

A design audit allows Sprint Masters to learn about the product and validate that they have chosen the right challenge to focus on. This step is especially helpful for existing projects, or if you are joining any team where prior work has been done.

An effective design audit will include

  • Interviewing key stakeholders, people leading the project
  • Reviewing all existing documents
  • Reviewing all relevant user research
  • Reviewing the current designs
  • Identifying or reviewing core use cases


Prepare the supplies

Sprints require a set of simple but useful supplies: sharpies, paper, tape, sticky notes, voting dots, a timer, and a chime bell or kitchen timer.

Snacks and coffee are useful, but not required

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