Creatives and Design Sprints: a match made in post-it heaven

Story by senior creative and copywriter, Luke Falkland-Brown

Due to COVID-19 only digital post-its used this time

Post-its. Until recently, all I knew about design sprints was that you use lots of them. The last agency I worked at had sizeable UX and strategy departments, so I (part of the creative team) was never invited to the party.

Design sprints (in case you were wondering) originated at Google Ventures but are now used around the world. The idea is to build and test a prototype in five days. It’s efficient, avoids the office politics that slow down projects and gives you customer insights before investing time and money into making the real thing. Sounds good right?

These days I work at independent agency, Pretty Neat, and recently I took part in a design sprint for a car sales app. I enjoyed the process and afterwards couldn’t understand why I’ve never done one before. According to other copywriters and art directors I spoke to, I’m not the only one.

Creatives have plenty to contribute. They think laterally, are critical, ask lots of questions, are good communicators and can draw a mean stick figure. So for any creatives out there wanting to try a design sprint here’s what to expect.

On day one you get to play strategist. You set goals, identify barriers to success and explore customer segments. You’ll also interview experts to get insights. At the end of the day your brief is written and you’ve created your first pile of post-its.

Just like when you’re doing internet research, day two kicks-off by sharing work you admire. The arvo is spent sketching ideas for the challenges identified on Monday. It’s just like when you’re brainstorming so it will come naturally.

Day three also felt familiar. It’s like when you have that first catch up with your Creative Director with all the ideas stuck up on the wall. In this case, everyone gets a vote. By the end of the day, you’ll have a solid idea to prototype.

Day four is exactly like the day before a pitch. You have a long list of things to smash out and time is not on your side. But if everyone digs in and you don’t overstretch yourself, you’ll have a bunch of work to show potential customers the next day.

I missed the era of testing work in front of real people so I was looking forward to day five. Potential customers looked at the work we’d done and gave real-time feedback on what they thought. It was a fascinating learning experience and an excellent end to the week.

There you have it. If you want to contribute to a design sprint just apply the skills you use every day. The next time you bump into a strategy or design director in the office kitchen (or Slack channel during lockdown), offer your services. Sprint teams should be a mixed bag of experts and there’s plenty to gain from a creative being there.

Overall, I’m a fan of the process. I can see how it works better for product design but even for campaign work, it’s a good way to quickly stress test ideas. For campaigns, I think compressing the first couple of days to get more time to prototype would help. After waiting years to be invited to my first design sprint, I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Big ideas for the people and brands the planet needs

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