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June 17, 2020

How to break design deadlocks using the Silent Art Museum method

Choosing the best design can get tricky at times, especially when there are opposing views in the room. To solve this conundrum, I usually like to use this technique from the Design Sprint methodology called the ‘Silent Art Museum’.

Have you ever been to an art museum? 

It is usually a quiet environment where you can lose yourself studying, reflecting, or admiring bodies of work from renowned and emerging artists.

This method works the same way, allowing people to silently observe, think and vote on the best visual solution that will break any deadlock. It’s structured, simple, practical, and effective in finding a consensus among people.

We usually do this on Day 2 or 3 of a Design Sprint, after we have created a stack of visual ideas. Technically, you can use it for any project, but the “art museum” part of this technique means it is best suited for things with a visual element such as an interface, website, logo, poster, etc.

This method is about pinning down the best solution, so you should already have a few variations of visual ideas for people to vote on, to move forward to the next step in creating a prototype or product.

How does the Silent Art Museum technique work?

Generally, you need about an hour to run this session. It is divided into:

  • The Art Museum
  • The Speed Critique
  • The Straw Poll
  • The Super Vote

1. The Art Museum

The setup is like an art museum. You will need a board where you can display all the different ideas you have as if you are in an art gallery.

We design a lot of web pages, so for this article, I’m going to use a website’s homepage as an example. You can draw it by hand or project the ideas from a laptop.

Each participant in the room gets 3 things: voting stickers, post-it notes and a pen. The stickers are for you to place on the ideas you like, while the post-its are for sticking questions on the board.

Now, everyone should silently go through each idea or each section of all ideas, place a sticker on whichever takes their fancy, or place questions on the board if they are unclear about anything.

The important thing in this whole exercise is to keep silent. You’re not discussing, asking, or trying to influence others to your opinion.

Design Sprint Silent Art Museum

2. The Speed Critique

Once the initial voting is done, you will see a heatmap of some sorts on the board. Popular or great ideas will have a bunch of stickers while the subpar ones will have fewer stickers.

In this session, the facilitator will quickly review each idea with the participants, answer questions, and have a brief open discussion as to why some ideas are liked more than others. You need a timer for this to avoid going off tangent. For example, allocate 3 minutes per idea, which means you only need 6 minutes if you have two variations.

If you’re facilitating, make sure you fully understand the business goals and the ideas in hand because the session will be unproductive or time consuming otherwise.

3. The Straw Poll

The straw poll session is really just a fancy name for a final round of voting. Everyone gets a sticker each to place on the final idea, silently placing them just like in the first round.

After voting, each person will quickly explain to the Decider, on why they chose the idea. A Decider is the person responsible for making the final decision and is typically a product manager, creative director or even CEO.

4. The Super Vote

Now, the Decider gets 2 stickers. The first sticker is for the idea they like the most, and the second sticker is for a design element, area, or feature that they like the most, but is not in the winning idea.

This is crucial to incorporate the best element, regardless of where it comes from, into the final idea. To illustrate, the Decider may vote for Idea #1 as the best, but he or she prefers the homepage navigation bar of Idea #2 instead.

Virtual Silent Art Museum Voting

I must stress that the Decider gets the final say for the project, or the veto vote, even if it goes against the grain of the majority. However, this situation rarely happens because most people tend to listen to consensus.

If you’re facing a tight or tough decision, you could try user testing or A/B testing to nail down the winning idea, but I don’t recommend dragging the decision making any further because it is counterproductive.

And, that’s a wrap. You should have a firm solution to work on by applying the ‘Silent Art Museum’ method.

You can conduct the whole session online too, which is especially helpful during this pandemic lockdown we are facing. I recommend using MURAL software, as it is one of the best we’ve used for remote workshop sessions. I hope this helps your future projects.

If you'd like to watch a video and learn more about this process, here's one that I prepared earlier 🙂

March 20, 2020

How to Create a Simple User Journey Map for Your Website

By Alvin Hermanto – Principal, Relab

Mapping a user journey is about taking a walk in a customer’s shoes. By understanding how they behave and what they want or need, you’re more likely to turn them into loyal fans instead of one-off buyers.

A user journey usually starts from your customer discovering your business to them taking a positive action towards your business in the form of buying, trialling, hiring or subscribing to your services.

As a digital design consultancy, we at Relab use user journeys heavily in our projects to create mobile apps, websites and other digital experiences. It helps us and our clients be on the same page on what we are building and improving. 

Most of our maps revolve around generating online sales and leads or enriching the online user experience, but you can build maps for any customer experience such as an in-store purchase or live demos.

We typically do them on the first day of a Design Sprint, but you can create them as a standalone exercise. These are the vital things to research and have ready before a session:

  1. Your user personas
  2. Your goals for the user personas
  3. The key challenges faced by your user personas to achieve those goals.

For example, your user persona may be a mother, who is looking to buy toys for her kids. 

The goal is for her to buy the toys you sell online. Based on available data, previous surveys and feedback, the key challenges hindering her to buy online from your business could be:

  • Confusing or unclear product categories on your site which makes it difficult for her to find the exact item she wants
  • The limited payment options available at checkout because the website only accepts PayPal
  • Her lack of confidence in purchasing from a small online shop as opposed to a big retailer

If you are building a new website, you may not have existing user behaviour data to draw upon. In this case, you can study your competitors’ websites to see what and where they are lacking to build a better website.

How to map the user journey

The first item to get right off the bat is agreeing on the user personas, their goals and main issues. Many times, the hardest task in a session is getting everyone to see eye to eye on these parameters.

Once that’s done, we can start plotting what the map looks like for each user persona. Start with one user persona. The typical stages that a user goes through is “Discover”, “Learn”, “Use” and “Decide” before they achieve their goals. Obviously, you can create your own stages that are unique to your business. This is just a guide.

I must also stress that the goal for a user may not always be a purchase. It could be signing up to a newsletter, booking an appointment, downloading an information pack, or enquiring about your product or service. Furthermore, a user persona will have multiple goals.

Example of a User Journey Map

Take a look at the diagram above. 

In this example, we have a user persona who is a handy man or a tradie called Derrick. We want him to use our app that lets him buy supplies and pay for job invoices. 

During the “Discover” stage, Derrick may have heard about our app through several sources: word of mouth, in retail stores, events, social media and emails. He then learns that he can download the app to register an account in the “Learn” stage. 

After he has registered on our app, he is now in the “Use” stage where he will be exploring our app. This is where it can branch off to several use cases before getting into the “Decide” stage that leads to user goals.

  1. He can start browsing products and then decide to buy it
  2. He can view orders and then decide to check on a particular order status
  3. He can view his account and then decide to view all his invoices
  4. He can search for invoices and then decide to pay outstanding invoices

A typical user journey map will have many branches of use cases, especially for more complex and bigger websites or apps. This is when you need to set priorities in your project.

Based on the diagram above, you should pick a branch that is most likely to solve your issue or give the biggest impact to your business. For example, if sales have been lagging in your business, your first priority will be to increase sales on your app. Therefore, you can focus your energy on a particular branch or use case first, by building a better user experience and making it easier for them to purchase on the app, before tackling the remaining goals. 

A defined User Journey focus

Here’s a video example of how simple it is to come up with a user journey map:

With any user mapping sessions, I generally advocate for simplicity as much as possible. Naturally, you will have several user personas for your business. Pick one or two personas that make up the majority of your customer base and then create the corresponding maps.

These maps help you stay on course towards your goals because it is easy to get overwhelmed when improving your website or app. You may feel that there are too many things to fix or build. You may also end up building something that doesn’t fix the issue or makes things worse. By mapping things out, you can prioritise tasks clearly, and effectively measure the success of your work.

And taking a walk in your customers’ shoes is always a good idea. 

March 1, 2020

Want to Get Inside Your Client’s Head? Try the Lightning Demo

By Alvin Hermanto – Principal, Relab

For a digital design agency, client briefs are critical to our work. But sometimes, getting clients’ ideas out of their heads is not as easy as filling up a form or chatting for hours – conversations get misunderstood and writings get misinterpreted. At times, our questions in the brief can’t capture all the ideas while clients struggle to put their ideas in writing.

What’s a better solution? A show and tell session.

Yes, this old-as-time activity used in schools and loved by kids has helped us numerous times to really understand what the client wants visually.

And this simple show and tell concept has been developed further into what is called the Lightning Demo, under the Google Design Sprint methodology.

What is the Lightning Demo?

The Lightning Demo is a structured show and tell session, where we get clients to show their visual inspirations and examples of what they love.

We mainly use this technique as part of our Design Sprints, but we may utilise it during client or internal meetings to easily gather visual inputs. You can use it for pretty much any type of visual projects such as logo design, website design, product design, and marketing collateral designs such as advertisements, brochures and posters.

How does the Lightning Demo work?

Generally, the people needed are:

  • 1 facilitator who will host the session, facilitate, take notes and make sure things don’t go off tangent.
  • Participants or stakeholders in the project. I usually like to stick to the 2-pizza rule by Jeff Bezos. Things can get out of hand the more people you have in a session, so it’s best to cap it to 8 participants, and no fewer than 4, who will “show and tell” what they want.  

To illustrate the process, I will use an example of building an eCommerce homepage for our Lightning Demo session. This is roughly how it goes:

  1. Before the demo, all the participants must research for several examples of other eCommerce homepages that they love. It could be from any industry, in fact, taking examples from outside your client’s industry may generate better ideas. The important thing is that each example should encapsulate a “big idea”, which is what they love about the homepage. Someone may show an example of the Nike home page and the big idea that they loved about it is the 'seamless and clean navigation menu'.
  2. During the Lightning Demo, each person will present their big ideas together with examples. This works exactly like a typical show and tell session. You can time each person to 10-15 minutes to avoid things dragging on.
  3. The facilitator will take note and sketch each big idea on a big whiteboard, or on their laptop that’s projected, so everyone can see the big picture.

Here is a mock Lightning Demo for you to watch:

The Lightning Demo (GV Design Sprint Technique)

It’s important to pay attention to the ideas that resonated with everyone, or the majority, in the room as you will have loads of ideas to choose from after the demo. Those much-loved ideas are the ones you should incorporate into your project to ensure it meets and exceeds client’s expectation.

What could go wrong in a Lightning Demo?

Barring technical issues, some of the challenges you may face when hosting or facilitating a Lightning Demo is the participants being ill-prepared. Obviously, the more prep they have done, the better you can understand what they exactly want to avoid building or designing something the client hates.

Furthermore, the facilitator is crucial to a successful session. He or she may lose track of time, misinterpret ideas and allow ideas to float that are irrelevant to the objective and requirement of the project.

The Lightning Demo is usually a fun and engaging way to gather ideas from clients rapidly, and most of our clients love this session during our Design Sprints. In a Design Sprint, the Lightning Demo is typically done on day 2 after we have mapped out the bones of the project.

I mean, who doesn’t love a show and tell session at work?

February 10, 2020

How to Get Your Creative Juice Flowing with the Crazy 8s Method

By Alvin Hermanto – Principal, Relab

Have you ever thought about a problem so much that you never actually start doing anything about it? It could be a fear of imperfection, analysis paralysis, mental block or a myriad of other reasons. 

Overthinking always kills new ideas before they are even born.

As a creative, what can you do about it?

One of the things I do with our team is a brainstorming technique called “Crazy 8s” or “Crazy Eights”. It’s a small part of our design sprint process, and the strongest benefit is that it reduces or eliminates overthinking to unlock your subconscious mind. 

Your subconscious mind is a powerful, untapped tool. Ask any creatives and they will agree. 

Sometimes, all you need to do is spend a whole day on a problem and then go to sleep to let your subconscious mind work its magic. I’ve experienced many happy occasions where answers or ideas pop up suddenly in my head after waking up from a restful sleep.

Crazy 8s – Brainstorming & Sketching (GV Design Sprint Technique)

How to use the Crazy 8s technique

The Crazy 8s is great to use when you already have a starting point but are stuck or lacking ideas because its purpose is to expand your ideas or give you a fresh perspective.  It won’t work if you haven’t defined your problem, requirements, goals and are missing basic solutions or ideas. 

We use it a lot to generate product page layouts, logo designs and creative copies. We usually do it in a group, 4 or 5 people, and up to 8. You can do it within your creative teams or with clients and stakeholders.

Here’s what you need:

  1. A pencil/pen for each person
  2. An A4 or any sized paper for each person
  3. A timer

Fold your paper in half, 3 times. Once you unfold it, you should have 8 sections on your paper. Each section is 1 iteration. We will do 8 iterations of your idea – hence, the crazy 8s. 

And each session is timed for 1 minute, giving you 8 minutes in total. You can repeat the crazy 8s process to continue refining your idea, it’s up to you. 

Now, start the timer for 1 minute

Everyone in your team will start sketching or writing ideas in the first section of your paper. Let’s say you are trying to design a product page layout, then you will sketch by hand for a minute. 

Draw or write the first thing that comes to your mind. Remember, you’re not presenting your idea to people, so it does not have to look good on paper, as long as you understand what you are drawing or writing. 

After 1 minute, start the timer again and move on to the next section. Keep at it until you’ve filled up all 8 blocks on your paper. By the end, you would have 8 different versions of your idea or solution.

The whole point is to keep your hand moving and not think too much. You will start with an idea and continue expanding or refining it. Eventually, you may come up with something you hadn’t thought of, or you’ll see the solution in a different light, as you keep on creating and refining. 

This method prevents you from overthinking ideas in your head as you are time bound. It leverages your subconscious mind to come up with better solutions and ideas. Once it’s done, you can compare notes with your team, discuss it, or continue refining it with another Crazy 8s session. 

Typically, the Crazy 8s does not give you the final solution or product.  But it does give you better clarity, fresher perspectives and newer ideas. Here’s an analogy. If you are lost in the woods, and you’ve run out of ideas on what to do and where to go, the Crazy 8s method will help shed some light on which new direction you can try, but it does not get you home. 

We have other forms of brainstorming sessions in our agency, but the Crazy 8s is pretty fun, useful and effective in unblocking mental blocks. Try it and see how powerful your subconscious is. 

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A customer obsessed digital design consultancy

A customer obsessed digital design consultancy

A customer obsessed digital design consultancy

A customer obsessed digital design consultancy

A customer obsessed digital design consultancy

Suite 1, Level 1
8-10 Shelley Street
Richmond VIC 3121

+613 9421 5069
hello@relab.com.au


Suite 1, Level 1
8-10 Shelley Street
Richmond VIC 3121

+613 9421 5069
hello@relab.com.au


Suite 1, Level 1
8-10 Shelley Street
Richmond VIC 3121

+613 9421 5069
hello@relab.com.au


Suite 1, Level 1
8-10 Shelley Street
Richmond VIC 3121

+61 3 9421 5069
hello@relab.com.au

Suite 1, Level 1
8-10 Shelley Street
Richmond VIC 3121

+61 3 9421 5069
hello@relab.com.au

Copyright © 2020 Relab Studios Pty Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2020 Relab Studios Pty Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2020 Relab Studios Pty Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2020 Relab Studios Pty Ltd.  All rights reserved.