August 30, 2019

Design Thinking Vs. Design Sprint: Why You Need Both

Don Tirea
VP of Partnerships

If you work in digital product design, chances are you’ve heard the terms design thinking and design sprint quite a bit. However, because the two are closely linked, there’s also a good chance you’re not totally sure about the difference between the two. We’re here to change that. 

Below we break down what design thinking is, how it’s different from a design sprint, and why you should use both to bring your software as a service (SaaS) product to life.

Design Thinking Vs. Design Sprint: What’s The Difference?

Design thinking is a methodology for creative problem solving. It centers around empathizing with users and their pain points, reframing problems in creative ways, and generating solutions. The five steps to design thinking are:

  1. Empathize with users. 
  2. Define a user problem the design will solve for. 
  3. Identify innovative solutions. 
  4. Build a prototype of the chosen solution. 
  5. Put that prototype in front of target users for testing and feedback.

A design sprint takes the core elements of design thinking and applies them in a methodical, intensive process to achieve a tangible output. Design sprints implement design thinking principles in a very structured, rigid way to test ideas on target users and gain validation before moving forward with a new product idea.

Some companies focus on agile design in their organization, which applies the same design thinking concepts—going through an idea, building something, launching it, learning from it, and improving on it—but in a much broader, less condensed way than a design sprint. The agile design framework is essentially the middle ground between design thinking as a very broad, high-level like philosophy, and design sprints as a more radical version of applied design thinking that seriously condenses the process.

If you have a great product idea, what's stopping you from bringing it to life? Drop us a line to talk about it.

Design Sprints: Efficient & Effective

When designing digital products, methods like design sprints and agile design save companies significant time and money over traditional design thinking processes. Ideally, the output should be the same: an interactive prototype, tested by real users, and with clear insights on where to go next. The only real difference is the time it takes to get there. The design sprint shortens the entire process to get the job done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Let’s look at an example. 

Say you're a college student studying interaction design. A modern curriculum includes the core components of design thinking, such as how to empathize with users, scope out your ideas, turn those ideas into prototypes, and collect and compile feedback to help you iterate over time. That’s all good information; however, it assumes you can create a standout SaaS product simply by having this knowledge. But if you’re not learning how to apply those concepts as part of a process, you’re missing an important component of success.

People think that design thinking equals great products, but the process piece—actually applying design thinking—is what makes those products great. Because of this, a lot of people have become somewhat disillusioned with design thinking concepts over time, as they've likely invested a lot of time and money into them without seeing any output or return. This brings up a lot of valid questions: What's the monetary value in this? What’s the return on investment? As such, people don't necessarily trust design thinking to provide an outcome—and with the absence of an optimized process, they’re not wrong.

In order to successfully apply design thinking in your organization, you need a process in place to yield positive results. That’s exactly what the design sprint is, and why we think it’s a great solution for applying the design thinking framework.

Go From Messy Problem To Tested Solution In Record Time

At Checkmate Digital, our design sprint process compresses months of work into less than one week. In just four days, our clients gain helpful insights and validation driven by real users testing a prototype that functions just like a real product.

If you have a great idea for a digital product but are struggling with how to get started, we’re here to help. Let’s talk strategy and about how we can collaborate to transform your big idea into a successful SaaS product.

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