From Ideation to Validation: Daily Themes to Guide a Weeklong Design Sprint

Were in the business of ideas.

Creating good ideas is difficult, finding THE one right idea to a solution is well, really, really hard, especially if you have a very limited time to come up with one.

Why would you limit the amount of time to come up with a solution to something so complex? Because its all about making decisions.

Design sprints are a great choice for people who need a tangible product, like an app or website prototype, but have a limited budget or time. More importantly, they are looking to make an informed decision on what should be built, what people actually need, or if their product or app should or could exist at all.

Design sprints are the best option for getting quick and validated results to reduce the amount of risk later. Its better to know early on whether an idea will stick or not with users than spending a protracted amount of time and resources getting the same result. In the end, youll save your bottom line. And tons of work.

A design sprint could be half a day, a full day, or even several weeks. Our favorite model is a week long deep dive with a little preplanning.

To get to that ONE best idea to test at the end of the design sprint week, we suggest creating daily themes that guide testing a solution.

Themes for each day of a week long design sprint.

Planning for a design sprint should consider creating ways to explore unexpected ideas and shift quickly to focus on what is the highest priority. Rather than structuring the day with a rigid schedule, consider focusing on goals of the day through themes to allow flexibility.

A week long sprint incorporating a human-centered design approach might look like this:


In a typical 5 day sprint, plan to spend Monday focusing on understanding and framing the problem that needs to be solved. There should also be time dedicated on the user knowing who they are, their needs, and their overall context for need and use.

Your main deliverable should be a well-framed problem statement that defines the design challenge the team will be tackling in the sprint. It will keep the herd together and draw boundary lines to keep everyone focused and flexible.



Once everyone agrees on the the problem statement, Tuesday should be spent coming up with as many ideas and concepts as possible. Consider everything: the bad ideas, the boring ones, and the completely crazy ideas and spend time looking at all of them, together. At the end of the day, the deliverables should be a grouping of the best ideas to further explore.


By Wednesday, youll need to take those ideas and narrow it down into a single, feasible solution you can create and test. Everyone should be able to agree on what that is at the end of the day. This process is a bit more difficult than you can imagine but if you have the problem statement and goals well framed, it should help as a guide in making the right decisions. Much of the day is spent working through a series of silent and group critiques, as well as activities focused on aligning the problem??statement to the ideas until agreements can be made about what to pursue and test.


On Thursday, the team should really be focusing on producing something tangible enough to test. It doesnt have to be a working website or app, but it should be at least clickable or demonstrate the ability for a user to interact and engage with the product.

In some cases, it could be high fidelity sketches with interaction points, or it might be a set of screens compiled in a mockup platform like InvisionApp. It just needs to work enough to validate assumptions and learn more about further opportunities for design iterations.

Friday (Im in love)

On the final testing day, real target users should be available to test the prototype and there should be clear instructions for them for testing. Other than having someone on the team administering the tests, make sure you also have someone observing and documenting the qualitative experience of use ??document expressions, gestures, the things they say while interacting and using the prototype and more. Attention should also be made to capturing insights on not only making a product that works and that people like, but what will get them to really love the product. Focus on finding opportunities that can create personal microinteractions or delight.

Be Flexible

Themes can also help you move more quickly when having to adapt. For example, if the team has enough understanding of the problem and has already established a problem statement, your first day can focus on a quick review and then focus starting earlier in generating ideas during a divergence phase. You can also consider combining Divergence and Convergence in one day and leave more time to Make the prototype. Just be flexible and make the themes for a human-centered design approach for developing a prototype work for you.

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