How design sprints can shape your brand.

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How design sprints can shape your brand. We explain how design sprints can transform team engagement and open opportunities for your brand.

Design sprints, popularized by Jake Knapp, a design partner at Google Ventures (now called GV), have fundamentally changed how startups and large organizations alike design products, services, and experiences. To put it simply, a design sprint is a framework created to optimize your chances of creating something that people actually want. Influenced by Eric Ries' Lean Startup principles, design sprints emphasize short time constraints and prototypes, using small, cross-functional teams to quickly iterate and validate ideas. This eliminates, or at least reduces, the odds that a product will be found to be completely useless to the end user after a significant investment of time, effort, and money.

Knapp himself describes the five-day sprint as follows:

Day 1: Understand. Dig into the design problem through research, competitive review, and strategy exercises.

Day 2: Diverge. Rapidly develop as many solutions as possible.

Day 3: Decide. Choose the best ideas and hammer out a user story.

Day 4: Prototype. Build something quick and dirty that can be shown to users.

Day 5: Validate. Show the prototype to real humans (in other words, people outside your company) and learn what works and what doesn't work. These cross-functional teams focused on the consumer, data, design, and technology short-circuit longer waterfall processes and incorporate agile thinking to do better work, and faster. The business constraints, teamwork, and outcomes of a sprint can inspire and ignite teams forward.

Knapp is the first to admit this model is based on the design thinking methodology created by Stanford's d.school and innovation firm IDEO, now used by creative organizations the world over to create human-centered products and services. Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. 

Here are five of the reasons you should consider a design sprint for your brand or business:

01. Chemistry. Creativity is a team sport so it's critical that teams work well together. One benefit of a design sprint or study is you can work together and see if you are creatively compatible before jumping into a long term engagement.

02. Alignment across disciplines. Design is also a team sport. A cross-functional sprint gets UX Designers, Engineers, marketers, and communications professionals on the same page from the start. Getting input from key stakeholders throughout the process shields a design team from the dreaded scenario in which weeks are spent on a project, only for the all the work to be scrapped by a HiPPO. A design sprint also creates brand alignment with a shared visual language. Google's Material Design is a fantastic example of how a well-articulated visual language can revolutionize a brand's design. Mailchimp's Voice and Tone demonstrates how a shared language can be used to drive best-in-class content strategy.

03. Actionable artifacts. Everyone has moodboards or style sheets, but these are often made up solely of inspiration from other places. A design sprint takes this to the next level so you are owning it yourself and not just copy catting.

04. Validation. Empowered by the convergence of digital platforms, today's consumers control brands. Brand loyalty is an increasingly scarce commodity, and today's fickle consumers live in micro-moments. As a result, brands must grow and evolve constantly. Just as you must break and learn from your prototypes in agile product development, it is critical to 'break' your brand and challenge outdated assumptions.

05. Minimum time, maximum value. Constraints drive creativity. A design sprint builds brand transforming velocity by introducing constraints that force teams to focus on outcomes, not outputs. When a team only has a week or two, they are forced to focus on solving the challenges that matter most to the bottom line. Drive immediate conceptual and design value through a sprint that produces ideas, concepts, and visual language that reveal opportunities for businesses and brands in record time.