Behavior Change Design Sprints

UX Strategist and moderator

A method to prototype behavior change technologies

Designers often create products and services to help people give up on bad habits or to perform positive ones such as exercising more or eating healthy. The process of creating technologies to nudge or change behavior is known as behavior change design. 

Numerous methods help designers to rapidly brainstorm design ideas, but none of them incorporate human behavior science into the design process. How can we facilitate the application of scientific findings from human behavior science into the design process?

3 years ago I created the Behavior Change Design Sprint, and since then I have been following a User-Centered approach to improve it. In this period, I had the opportunity to run multiple sprint sessions as an instructor of the Human Centered Design and Engineering program and giving the workshop in multiple companies and events, such as Interaction’19.

Workshop participants at the IxD Education Summit’19, in Seattle.

I used Google’s Design Sprint as a foundation for the Behavior Change Design Sprint. I shrinked Google’s sprint into a short workshop format that fits into the work routine of product teams. The workshop I created can substitute a 1 or 2 hour regular brainstorming session.

Of note, most methods don’t have any particular steps or guidance related to design ethics. I factored this concern into specific steps of the Sprint, to encourage designers to consider ethics as a key factor in the design of behavior change technologies.

Behavior Change Design Sprint steps

1. Preparation
To set up the stage for this rapid workshop, we use constraints infused into common design resources, such as persona-based scenarios and design challenges.

2. Translating Scenario into User Journey
In the first step, participants are asked to read and become familiar with the input materials. Then, we ask them to translate the persona-based scenarios into simple diagrams, such as the one on the right.

Here, it is important to encourage participants to think about ‘the why’ of behaviors, identifying obstacles for target behaviors to happen.

3. Applying Strategies to User Journey
In this step, sprint participants are asked to incorporate insights from human behavior science into their process. Participants are asked to read and discuss insights, and envision where in the diagram created in step 1 those insights could work as strategies to encourage personas to take a specific action.

I have used card decks with behavior insights, but you can use other resources such as user research findings. At the bottom of this page, you can find downloadable card decks. What is important here is that cards should have clear recommendations that can help designers brainstorm ways to address their design challenge.

4. Sketching Solutions
This is the only individual step in the sprint. Here, participants sketch different ways to incorporate human behavior science into designs, following cues that prompt them to think about different ways to promote behavior change in the personas.

First time use
6 months of use
Lapsed use or reengagement

What interventions would substantially maximize the benefits of performing the target behavior?
How could someone else step in and encourage the persona?
What might be an unethical design that will coerce the persona or that they will absolutely hate?

5. Selecting a Solution
After sketching individually, participants present their ideas to their peers. At the end of this step, groups converge on one idea that they think it’s appropriate to tackle the design challenge. In the guide, you will find prompts to facilitate groups’ decision-making.

6. Prototyping and Explaining Rationale
Finally, participants create low-fidelity prototypes based on their most promising behavior change design idea. In parallel to prototyping, participants have to annotate their designs, clearly explaining how human behavior science was used to inspire prototypes. We also ask participants to discuss the ethics of their proposed designs.


All of the steps described on this page are shown in detail on the guide. To facilitate the execution of the sprint, print out the sprint guide and give it to participants. You can also use the slides below to facilitate moderation.

Constraint materials
In the sprint, we use design challenges, personas, and scenarios. Feel free to use our examples or adapt them to your needs.

Participants need a set of recommendations drawn from human behavior and attitudes. You can use our Behavior Change Design cards decks, wich are translations of social psychology research fingings. You can also come up with your own recommendations, through user research or secondary research.

Behavior Change Design Cards 2018

Card deck
Behavior Change Design Cards 2019

Card deck

Interested in knowing more about my process and the research behind the Behavior Change Design Sprint? Read the white paper I published about it at the Designing Interactive Systems ‘18 conference that happened in Hong Kong.

You can also read a short post that the Interaction’19 Seattle organizers published about the sprint.
Medium post

Reviewers believe that the paper is useful for design professionals to have an additional knowledge base for understanding behavior change related to their design goal, and in identifying a clear gap in the field which makes a strong contribution to Human-Computer Interaction and Design communities.

Primary review of the paper submission to Designing Interactive Systems 2018

Thank you so much for the sprint at the Education Summit. It was truly an awesome experience! I learned so much from it. I think I can apply a lot to my work.

Feedback from Interaction’19 Education Summit workshop participant

“I just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed every class we've had. I keep telling people how this is my absolute favorite of all HCDE classes ever because I learned so much while also having a lot of fun, so thank you for a great quarter”

Masters’ student in my Spring 2019 courseIn my academic department, HCDE, the sprint is the backbone of a class that my advisor and I created for masters students where we teach behavior change design.

Some examples of designs created using the sprint. The prototypes below were designed in less than 3 hours of —intense— work.