How to lead a Design Dash

Want to get your team from blank faces to a testable solution? The goal is to generate ideas to develop into the most promising ideas for a prototype to test. The Design Dash recipe is a curated set of five Workshop Tactics designed to span over a two days that helps your team quickly identify the biggest opportunity or problem to solve.

🧠 Learn how to…

✔️ identify opportunities for improvement for your customer

✔️ generate lots of ideas and effectively evaluate your best ones to take forward

✔️ prioritise the best ideas

✔️ expand your best ideas further

🃏 Cards used…
📚 Before you start

In person

  • Prepare (book room, invite people, write and share agenda)
  • Materials (whiteboard, sticky notes, pens)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, screen projector)
  • Room (refreshments, temperature, chairs, wall space)


  • Prepare (book room, send call link, invite people, write and share agenda)
  • Materials (whiteboard, sticky notes, pens, Miro board)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, screen projector)
  • Room (refreshments, temperature, chairs, wall space)


  • Prepare (invite people, write and share agenda, create and send call invite)
  • Materials (Miro board)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, Microphone/headphones)
How much time?…

The Design Dash recipe takes about 2 days of workshop time, this is a special recipe because it has the Idea Storm recipe within it. Make sure to break it up, for example with 2 hours before lunch and 2 hours after lunch.

✨ Extra reading…

👀 Let’s walk through this recipe using an example: to improve users’ experience of a podcast.


Use Journey Map to identify opportunities for improvement


⏱ Time: 1-2 hours

🧠 Core objective: map out your user or customer’s journey to identify opportunities for improvement.

The Journey Map tactic identifies new ways to improve a user’s experience. By mapping the steps of your service or product, you can start identifying your users’ level of frustration or delight at any given stage. Doing this helps you see how the experience can be improved.

💡 Tip: there can be any number of steps between a and b (see step 1) 


  1.  Since this is the start of your overall workshop, make sure to start with an icebreaker to warm everyone up.
  2. Draw the following on a large surface: (10 minutes)

    UX Journey Map template
    a) Sticky note with the first moment the user interacts with your product or service. For example, clicks on nature podcast homepage.

    b) Sticky note with the final outcome your user is aiming for. For example, listened to entire nature podcast.

  3. Instruct the group to write on sticky notes the steps the user takes before, between and after the two points. (15 minutes)
  4. Collect and put all the sticky notes along the dashed line in the correct order they occur. (5 minutes)

  5. Together, discuss each sticky note and decide it’s position along the y axis based on how delightful or frustrating that step is (see example below). (20 minutes)
  6. Write How Might We… questions for the most frustrating or least delightful steps between the start and end points (see example below). (10 minutes)


Use Idea Storm recipe to generate lots of ideas


⏱ Time: 3-4 hours

🧠 Core objective: 

The Idea Storm recipe puts a problem through its paces by gathering lots of ideas, then narrowing down and evaluating them. This multi-step recipe session takes you through the gears of idea generation. It makes a blank piece of paper far less scary for your team, and ends with a short list of clearly communicated ideas that have been evaluated to ensure they are robust.

⭐️ Time to take a step away from this Guide for a bit, and use the How to Lead an Idea Storm Guide to complete this integral part of Design Dash.

⭐️ Make sure to come back for the next tactic, Priority Map.


Use Priority Map to prioritise the best ideas


⏱ Time: 30mins – 1 hour

🧠 Core objective: prioritise the best ideas by two criteria such as Impact vs Effort or Cost vs Value.

The Priority Map tactic allows you to pinpoint the criteria that matter the most to your group. Find the magic combination between seemingly competing demands. This tactic encourages a debate about what is more important in any given context. Ruthless prioritisation is the secret super-power behind effective teams. 

💡 Tip: the value of this exercise is not in the absolute rankings you obtain, but in the discussion your participants will have around it. Make sure you not only capture the ranking, but also the arguments used in the discussion as well.


  1. Prior to this tactic, have a list of items such as ideas from the Idea Eight session in the Idea Storm exercises in the previous step.
  2. Draw two axes on a large surface. Pick two criteria your participants find important. (5 minutes)
    Here are some commonly used examples:
    Impact vs. Effort
    Risk vs. Knowledge
    Urgency vs. Importance
    Business Needs vs. User Needs
    Feasibility vs. User Value
    Cost vs. Problem

  3. Plot your items (usually sticky notes) on the map by ranking them against the criteria. It can help to ask “is this more or less than this one?” to get a sense of relativity between items. (20 minutes)


Use Storyboard to expand your idea


⏱ Time: 1-2 hours

🧠 Core objective: take the winning idea and expand on it further by turning it into a storyboard sequence.

The Storyboard tactic gets you to draw your idea as a sequence of moments and real-world interactions so you can better understand how it works. Use the ideas here that you identified in your Journey Map (step 1). 


💡 Tip: this exercise helps you pay attention to the context of the prototype. As well as what it should do at any given point. What you end up with is a plan for what to build, who to test with, and how.


  1. Using the key steps in the user’s journey that you already identified, consider the minimum frames needed to communicate your idea (see example below). (5 minutes)
    1) Clicks on nature podcast homepage
    2) Scrolls through podcasts and read description
    3) Chooses podcast and starts listening
    4) Finishes full nature podcast

  2. Sketch out the scene of the first step, adding ideas you evaluated in the last workshop with Priority Map. (20 minutes)
  3. Write a few words to describe each frame. (10 minutes)

  4. Evaluate the idea as a group by asking questions. (25 minutes)

    Does it make sense?
    Yes, the formatting flow of the users experience with reading and clicking makes sense.

    What could be improved?
    Could the icons be more catchy? Can we have varied sections in different colours?

    What isn’t needed?
    We do not need to include frivolous words.

    What’s missing?
    Links for each podcast’s academic resources.


Make it and test!


Now’s the time to take your fully fleshed-out idea and create a prototype and test it!

⭐️  Whatever kind of prototype you make, remember these three principles:

  • What you learn is only as good as your ability to keep quiet.
  • Your prototype is only as good as your hypothesis.
  • Your hypothesis is only as good as your ability to bring your team together and prioritise everyone’s assumptions.

What next?


Congratulations you have completed your Design Dash! You have generated promising ideas and developed them into a prototype to test. 

Now you’re onto your testing phase, if you get to a roadblock in the process use Get Unstuck.

Do you have questions, tips or tricks, etc? Join our Slack community of over 13,000 professionals.

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