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Developing User Empathy with Design Sprints


Curated by Alex Baldwin, Designer at Envoy. Alex is the CΧO at Hack Design and a designer at Envoy. Previously, he’s worked as a designer-in-residence with Techstars and 500 Startups. You can find him climbing nature, disc jockeying, drinking lattes, or possibly cartwheeling.

Product psychology exists solely in service of the people using your product. For product design, this is about balancing the infinite possibilities of what you could build with the desires of your customers. The most delightful products to use are the ones that effortlessly get you. Like a Vulcan Mind Meld™, your product and it’s users can mentally become one. In order to support and enhance those dynamite emotional experiences, you’ll need to iterate and bake product psychology into your development cadence.

Introducing the “Product Design Sprint,” a flexible collection of exercises that, when combined, provide a tour de force of product ecstasy. We’re talking Long Island Iced Tea levels of intoxicating power here. Here’s your guide to getting started and customizing design sprints for your own organization.

Google Venture’s design team originally developed and popularized the concept, so their team’s writings are the starting point. Alternatively, watch their talk from Google I/O 2014.

How could you and/or your team implement a design sprint in the next month?

While at thoughtbot, we had to adapt and modify certain aspects for our clients, specifically deliverables other than the final prototype. Consider what you would modify, remove, or add to get the best results with your organization. After a year running sprints myself, I wrote up a lengthy list of learnings.

Consider what you would modify, remove, or add to get the best results with your organization.

For outside inspiration, steal from the best. IDEO also offers an extended free course in implementing concepts from Human Centered Design. Stanford’s d.school has a bootleg which contains several wonderful exercises to draw inspiration from, as well.

Choose one (or both!) of these free resources and begin going through their material this week.

Your results will only be as good as your research. Draw from Moishe Lettvin’s deep experience mining for insights out of customer interviews.

Using Moishe’s advice, how could you and/or your team develop and implement a customer interview that will provide new insights?

Everyone runs sprints a little differently based on their needs and team configuration. I’m always happy to help get you unstuck or share learnings you’ve found.

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