Celebrating 7 Years of ITERATE: Our Take on the Design Sprint

On the 21st of May 2021 ITERATE Design + Innovation turned 7. To mark this business milestone we set out to try something new. Drawing upon recent success trialling the design sprint concept for a Client project, we felt this milestone provided the perfect opportunity to involve the full team at ITERATE in another, bigger design sprint. So, to celebrate our 7 years designing disruptive products, our 7 team members (from design, electronics and marketing) took 7 hours to push the boundaries and see just what we could do. Our ambition was to develop a targeted, considered, purposeful concept by the end of our 7-hour sprint.

As product designers, our minds are constantly questioning, probing, and considering what makes a product innovative. This time, we wanted to bring innovation and experimentation into the way we work and the way we design too.

The idea of doing our own design sprint offered the unique chance for the team at ITERATE to craft our very own project brief. In preparation, each team member came with original ideas and after a short feedback session, we reached a clear consensus. We entered our mini design sprint with a unified intent, to bring one particular issue out of the shadows. Our discussions were wide-ranging, but we kept returning to the following two facts:

  • Heart disease kills more than twice as many women each year than Breast Cancer.
  • A woman is 50% more likely than a man to initially receive the wrong diagnosis when experiencing a heart attack.

We didn’t need any further inspiration to get going.

Our topic? The misdiagnosis of heart disease in women.

The problem? That all-too-often women do not recognise or register that they’re exhibiting symptoms of heart disease.

The aim of our design sprint? To develop a solution that could help overcome this challenge and create change.

The Original Design Sprint 

The concept of the design sprint was first created by Jake Knapp (in the book, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days; a second, updated version has since been released). The core purpose of the design sprint is to take you from a big challenge to a testable prototype in only four days and moves from mapping the problem, to sketching, to prototyping to conducting user testing. Berlin-based business AJ & Smart are avid exponents of the sprint model, they see that this methodology helps to design not just a good product, but the right product. A vital premise is that compressing multiple design activities into a short time span, allows you to quickly explore options and reach the right decisions.

Adapting the Process: ITERATE’s Sprint 

The concept of expediting decision-making is a familiar one to the team at ITERATE. We typically deliver projects through our rapid product development pathway.  Therefore, drawing inspiration from the design sprint idea – but equally seeking to take our own spin on it – for this internal event we condensed the initial stages of our RPD into a sprint with a timeframe of just one day (roughly 7 hours).

Beginning, Middle and Beyond: What Happened on The Day

We started our design sprint bright and early, coffee-fuelled and armed with paper, pens, post-its and our initial research. Prior to the kick-off of our sprint we had settled on our overarching brief: misdiagnosis of heart disease. All remaining factors were unconstrained, the solution could take any form, shape, appearance.

We started the day by taking a deep dive into the problem, exploring the issue in significant depth and from multiple perspectives, drawing upon our research and data. As a team we shared knowledge we had gained and discussed the symptoms of women’s heart disease, focussing on understanding why women are at such a higher risk of misdiagnosis when compared with men and how culture plays into this. This would help us identify where a product might make a difference.

After an hour we decided which specific symptoms our product could help identify and raise awareness of; this focus led us onto an initial definition of the technical specification for the product. Once we had a solid grasp on the technology that would be needed, we then explored and defined the possible usage scenarios before we started sketching.

Ready, Set, Sketch 

The concept generation process was arguably the height of our sprint. This is the point where the research, discussions and explorations are finally realised on paper. This is the part where those in the team who aren’t industrial or mechanical designers were brought swiftly out of their comfort zones, meanwhile, our experienced designers were challenged to condense their craft into just 1 minute. That’s right, 1 concept idea in 1 minute, repeated six times. Each participant was tasked with creating one concept idea for a range of broadly defined use scenarios (e.g., portable, single-handed use).

As might be expected, 1 minute of sketching time doesn’t allow for any detail, or refinement, only initial ideas, sparks of inspiration. This is why this burst of concept creation is followed by a short roundtable where each participant explains their concepts and elaborates of what they envisioned. This helps quickly communicate a host of varied and vibrant ideas and the quick discussion allows others to more clearly interpret the rough concepts.

With concept creation complete, we returned in the afternoon with fresh minds ready to make some decisions. We quickly whittled over 36 concepts into just a handful, and soon combined the most effective features to agree on the best concept to develop further.

What Next? 

What started as an outside-the-box exploration to celebrate our latest company milestone, quickly unearthed a pressing topic, and delivered a promising concept – one that has the potential to make a big impact. Our next steps are to continue to develop, iterate and prototype our concept in-house, collaboratively involving every member of the team. (More on this to come). As our business continues to evolve, we’re certain this won’t be our last sprint.