A series of coloured pins show a journey from through South America into the Northern Hemisphere.

Mapping - The Design Sprint Unpacked

| Sam Hutchings

Sixty Second Summary

In this series of articles, we’re taking a look at the individual parts which make up a Design Sprint, how each part helps us work towards a user-tested prototype, and how you can use the activity on its own within your business’s Design-led decision making process.

Today, we’re looking at the Customer Journey Mapping step, sometimes referred to simple as “Map”, and the role it plays in the wider Design Sprint. This is a step that will be of particular interest to the User Experience champions on your Sprint Team.

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Full Article - 8 Minute Read

Mapping the Experience

Similar to Customer Journey Mapping, the goal of the Mapping exercise in the Design Sprint is to understand the journey(s) that exist between our actors’ starting points and their expected destinations.

The end result of this exercise will be one or more drawn journey maps to help us understand the journeys, how they interact with what we’re designing during the rest of the Sprint, and against which we can test our ideas before showing them to real users.

Learning the Lingo

When it comes to Mapping, there is specific terminology we use to describe different elements within the diagram. So, let’s start by understanding what each of these terms mean, and how they relate to each other and the map.

An example map, showing the areas where actors, steps and outcomes go.
Mapping the Map - showing the difference between actors, steps and outcomes. Adapted from The Sprint Book.


Like in a film or the theatre, “actors” are the characters within the story we are trying to map. Most of the time, these will be one or more different types of customers, but there may be others who need to be involved - such as sales people or a government regulator - who will need to be included as actors.

We are starting to see an increasing number of non-human actors - such as robots, chatbots, autonomous vehicles - who may also need to be included as actors within your map.


Outcomes or “Endings” are the end result of the journeys your actors are going to take. Experience has shown that it’s much easier to work out the end of the journey before working out the middle, so we’ll always start with this before coming up with the intermediary steps.

Examples of outcomes include specific treatments, a product delivery, or perhaps someone buying a product from your website. They will vary based on the problem you’re approaching and the customers you’re targeting.


Steps are the smaller actions your actors will take between their starting point at your outcome/ending. Each of these steps should describe what the actor is up to, whilst trying to keep the journey as simply mapped as possible.

For example, when describing the journey a customer would take in a typical coffee shop, we might create a single-lane map with this simple journey:

  • Customer (Actor)
  • Joins queue
  • Decides which coffee they want from the menu
  • Orders at the checkout
  • Waits for barista to make the drink
  • Picks up the drink from the counter
  • Leaves the Store (Ending)

Each of these steps is consecutive, written in plain language, and would be agreed upon by the Sprint team. They also each represent a point in the journey where your efforts could disrupt and improve the customer journey.

Drawing Your First Map

When it comes to drawing your map, you and your Sprint Team should be able to get the first quick draft together in thirty to sixty minutes. This first draft will have the list of actors on the left, the list of outcomes on the right, and a bunch of intermediary steps between each actor and each outcome. And all of this will have been done as a team, with you as facilitator drawing in reaction to their comments.

A journey map shows how various actors, including guests and the front desk, interact with a hotel's robot concierge and delivery service.
A map of using a hotel's robot concierge, from The Sprint Book.

It’s unlikely that you’ll perfectly map each actor and their journey when you first draft the map, so do not be surprised if parts of it evolve or change completely as you go through activities such as ‘Ask the Experts” and “How Might We Questions”, where you’ll learn more discuss more about the problem, your target audience, and how the two interact.

Alternative Activity: Note-n-Map

Created by Design Sprint Switzerland as an alternative to the traditional Mapping activity, the Note-n-Map gets everyone on the Sprint Team involved in the mapping process by asking each of them to come up with one or more customer journey maps on sticky notes before sharing their journeys with the team and adding them to the Map whiteboard. If you’d like to use this alternative form of mapping exercise, I recommend checking out their Medium post on the subject, which includes a video of the activity.

The Benefits of Mapping

By mapping the different customer journeys we expect to interact with, we bring a few benefits to the Design Sprint and our Design Sprint Team.

Free Up Short-Term Memory

Not a benefit that most people would come up with if asked “What are the benefits of having a map on display all the time?”, but an important one nonetheless is the reduced burden on everybody’s short-term memory. Now, instead of having to remember the five to fifteen steps that make up your customer journeys, you can just look at them at any time, freeing up a lot of mental capacity for creativity and focus.

An Agreed-Upon Structure

Because the Map is created as a group activity, the structures and journeys have been agreed upon by everyone on the Sprint Team, so they should be a semi-accurate representation of what your current customers experience. Importantly, by taking this time to properly map journeys early on in the Sprint means we won’t be derailed by discussion and disagreements later on in the Sprint.

Identify Opportunities

By laying out customer journeys as a visible map with identified steps between the actor and the outcomes, it becomes much easier to identify inefficiencies and issues that could be reworked to create potential solutions and opportunities.

For example, if you realise that every customer of yours has to go into a store or specific location to do something, you may have identified a step where an online or in-app process could be implemented to improve customer experience and business performance.

Structure the Sprint

Later in the Sprint, your customer map will help you narrow your broad challenge into a specific target. It will also provide a structure around which your Solution Sketches and Prototype can be built, whilst also helping keep track of how everything pieces together.

Next Time

Next time, we’ll be taking a look at the “How Might We Questions Activity” as we continue our deep dive into the Design Sprint.

To stay updated about new posts in this series, make sure to join our Design Sprint Unpacked mailing list or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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