How to run your first design sprint.

Get ready to Run your first design sprint

Before we jump into how to run your first design sprint, let’s just recap on what a design sprint is. The design sprint is basically a process that helps you answer big questions in a shorter space of time and validates or invalidates ideas or concepts in a time-boxed environment.

The output of the design sprint is actionable and can be fed back int the product sprints to execute on new tested features allowing product teams to move quickly.

Prepare for your first design sprint.

I think this is the most important part of the design sprint, getting the preparation right and understanding the team dynamics that you’re going to be dealing with over the course of the five, four or maybe three days is very important. 

You need to find the right place to do this, Somewhere that is comfortable and preferably away from the everyday working environment of the team. As a sprint facilitator, you also need to be mentally and physically ready for the time you will be spending facilitating a team or 5-6 people.

In the time of preparation, you need to understand the process clearly and define what you going to do. You make sure that the team that will be attending the design sprint understands process and trust it otherwise it will be challenging to facilitate the sprint and to keep things moving forward.

The best way to do this is to meet up with the team a week before the sprint and run a lighting decision jam preferably the team that will be attending the sprint in the coming week. The team should have a maximum of six to seven humans that work with the product every day this should be; a facilitator, the decider, a marketing/customer care expert, a technical expert and a design expert.

During this time you also want to consider if it is the right time to run a sprint, decide if you will if you need a design sprint at this stage,  or if the problem really needs to be solved by a design sprint. The answer is mostly yes since design sprints are versatile and help you solve many things, from defining a brand, a strategy or a product or just solve for blockers in your design process.

There are some types of situation you might not need a design sprint but rather something more flexible or totally different to solve for the problem like below is a diagnosis infographic to help you decide when to run a design sprint:

how to decide

Once decided, you need to run a design sprint a good way to get things going is to gather the sprint team around and have a Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ). This is a great way to start the conversation and helps you start your design sprint on with better alignment on the problem you are trying to solve and getting everyone onboard with the process.

Make sure to define the market is and who you are actually going to test with on the last day of the design sprint. This will help you get through the week, without having to do other tasks and just focus on the design sprint, getting the work done and moving forward.

finally, of course, this is the time that you have to set up your calendars and make sure that it’s especially the decision maker will be there for the first 2 to 3 days of the design sprint and to be able to make the important decisions before we get into product typing and actually doing the testing

Find the right team

Finding the right team to run your first design sprint.

Finding the right sprint team is really important because you need a balance of humans who are in touch with the business process or products on an everyday basis. This enables you to have the right dynamics in the room and the right mix of people who are able to answer most of the questions or ask the right questions. 

In most cases when running a design sprint you really need five major roles are that are necessary for making sure that the Sprint goes well, this combination also makes sure you have a perfect balance of the right people in the room.

The Decider

The decider is exactly that, the main person who has the final decision and has the most voting stickers. In most cases, this is the product owner, Project lead or even the CEO of the company. This is the person who needs to be able to make the hard decisions that actually matter in the real world for the product and to be able to move forward with the design sprint.

The Facilitator

If you’re reading this you’re probably the facilitator for the Sprint but you really don’t have to be.  You can find an internal person within the team to do this. The facilitator will drive the sprint process and activities from start to finish. Obviously, the facilitator needs to be knowledgeable with the design sprint process and probably should have read the book by now. 

If you will be facilitating, do your research on what has worked in other sprints for the type of product you are solving for. Get some tips and tricks on how to go through the sprint. Before the sprint use the LDJ to prepare yourself and familiarise yourself with the team and the process, use this as your sprint practice run.

Customer Rep – Marketing 

it is important to make sure you have a customer representative in the room, this should be someone who is customer facing or somebody works in a call center. Someone who really gets the voice of the customer on an everyday basis and to be able to voice that in the room. This person could be very helpful especially if the design sprint is about customer engagement.


Having a designer that is active or is going to work on the project in the room helps by answering any design questions and asking the right ones as well. The designer will also help the teamwork faster in the prototyping stage and be able to make a prototype that’s a bit closer to the real thing and not just a wireframe or low fidelity prototype.

Designers also bringing a creative flair in the room and this is important because some of the people in the room might not necessarily that creative and more process experts. designers are able to bring creative ideas on how to approach the design. having them listening to the demands and the needs of the marketing expert to the decider and other people in the room first hand it’s very important.

Tech lead

If you’re designing a digital product which is most of the cases probably 90% of design sprint cases. Having an experienced technical lead in the room really helps because it allows quick decisions to be made around what’s possible or not. 

The tech lead will help answer how the product will be built and what to include as features on the prototype. You might not implement any code during the design sprint but it’s always are a good idea to have somebody with the Technical know-how of how to actually build the product.

the supplies that you will need to run your first design sprint

Get supplies and your room ready.

Now you need to make sure that when people come on the day of the Sprint everything is in the order you ready to go, make sure no time is wasted on getting ready on the first day of the sprint otherwise this will look unprofessional and will kill the teams trust in your facilitation skills.

By this time your room needs to be ready, you need to have everything that you need on the table and everyone that’s in the room should know what they’re role is and be familiar and trusting in the process.

Below is a list of the things that you will need;


You’re going to need a lot of post-its, Get rectangular ones, square ones, and different colors to add some contrast in the room so that not everything is yellow or just one color that you pick.

Glue & scissors

There’s going to be a lot of cutting and sticking so make sure that you have your glue and scissors ready whenever you need them.

Markers and sharpies

Get yourself some sharpies that you can write with on the post-its, make them a little bit big pointed, don’t be scared so that people don’t write a whole book on one post-it and keep things short. 

Also, get a nice set of markers that people can use to sketch ideas on paper, preferably some nice ones with a soft brush tip, really nice to draw with.

A Timer

Get some sort of a timer,  Something that can be placed in a central position and big enough for everybody to see from every angle of the room.  this is important so that when working on different tasks is easy for everybody to keep track of time and know how much time is left for them to finish a specific task.

Whiteboards and walls

Make sure that the room that you choose is well lit and has got a lot of whiteboards, fixed or moving ones and a lot of walls or Windows that you can write work on, you want to keep everything up and around the team to keep everyone on the same page throughout the sprint. 

Paper paper paper

You’re going to need different types of papers, you’re probably going to need a bunch of A4 paper just plain white sheets, some A3’s for bigger sketches and that sort of thing. 

I also suggest getting magic paper so that you can easily stick it on the wall and do your thing. Magic paper is great because you can place it and work on services that you don’t really want to write on but it creates more space for the team to sketch out ideas.

Sticky Dots

Get a stinky dots so that you can vote on ideas, get two different colors and preferably two different sizes. Get a shiny different color for the decider. 

Light Snacks

Lastly and most importantly I get the team some light and healthy snacks. You can put around the room to keep the team’s energy up and keep people going so that you don’t break off too many times during the session.

That to expect

what to Run your first design sprint

You can definitely guarantee every design sprint success because what you’re doing is validating or invalidating an idea.  You can guarantee this if you follow the process and trust in it. familiarise yourself with the process enough that you do not miss any important steps of the process. 

If you’re planning to run your first design sprint I hope this helped and wish you luck. I would like to know after you go through your first is sprint how it went and what are some of the tips that you would like to share with people out there, please I leave your comments in the section below where ever you might be listening or reading this post from I would really appreciate it.

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Varima Henry

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