The timer ticks down on an active eights activity as a person sketches on a folder piece of A4 paper on a table covered in post-its.

Active Eights - Sketch Series - 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.

This week we continue the “Four-Part Sketch” Design Sprint activity. Today, we’re taking a look at the penultimate one of these activities, Active Eights.

Full Article - 5 Minute Read

Ideate, Sketch, Share with Active Eights

So far in the four-step sketch, you’ve had 20-25 minutes to note down all the necessary information you need, and another 20-25 minutes to come up with some ideas of solutions or parts of solutions that have been inspired by those notes. Both of these have been very conscious activities, due to the time you’re allowed. So, it’s time to change up the constraints and get you thinking in a less deliberate way, to create new bonds between the pieces of information you’ve absorbed and come up with novel and interesting ideas.

This is where Active Eights comes in. Instead of taking 20-25 minutes to come up with a few ideas, you’ll have just eight minutes to come up with eight ideas, giving you just 60 seconds per idea.

Running the Activity

Because of its inherent simplicity, Active Eights is one of our favourite creative activities at The Familiar. Unlike other workshop activities which can take hours to prepare, do and reflect on, Active Eights can be done by anyone, anywhere in just 10 minutes or so.

When it comes to running Active Eights as part of the Design Sprint, you will need a piece of A3 paper and a pen for each member of your Sprint Team. You’ll also need a timer to keep track of the activity, but you’ll only need one of those, and there are plenty of timer and round timer apps and websites out there.

For the best experience, you can download and use our Active Eights templates. They are available for free on our workshop resources page.

That’s it. With those few pieces of equipment, you’re ready to run your first Active Eights session with the team.

A detailed illustration showing a folded piece of paper used for Active Eights
All you need is a folded piece of paper and a pen to come up with some of the best ideas you've ever had. Illustration by Lucia Ferro.

If you don’t have access to a printer, especially one that can print A3 paper, then you can replace the Active Eights worksheet with a plain sheet instead. Once everyone has their piece of paper, they’ll need to fold it in half three times. Once along the long edge, again along the short edge, and once again along the long edge. This will create 8 drawing areas on the paper, like we have on the printed worksheets.

Now, set the timer for eight minutes and let the team know what they need to do. In just eight minutes, they each need to come up with eight ideas based on the notes and sketches they’ve just been working on. They’ll have approximately 60 seconds to work on each sketch, so they need to use some of the skills they learned in the previous activity to quickly and easily get an idea across.

Drawn on the iPad Pro using the prompt
Drawn on the iPad Pro using the prompt "Help people drink more water when working from home".

Tips for a Great Active Eights

As a facilitator, you may want to join in the activity, and that’s fine, but do keep an eye on the time and, if you’re not using a round timer, make sure to call out each minute as it happens, so the team knows to move onto the next sketch.

As you watch the clock, you may want to speak words of encouragement or tips and tricks to remind people. You may also want to call out a particular theme or prompt for that minute, to get the team thinking differently. A firm favourite of ours is “sketch the silliest idea you can come up with for this solution”. It gets people thinking and really gives them permission to go all-out on the subject.

Once the eight minutes is over, congratulate the team on completing the activity. The time constraint makes Active Eights one of the most hectic and stressful activities of the Sprint, but its potential to unlock creativity and create great ideas is unparalleled. Then, let the team grab a break, to give their brains and wrists a rest, before they move onto the fourth and final step - the Concept Sketch.


Come back next week for the fourth and final article in the Sketch Series, the Concept Sketch, where you’ll bring everything you’ve done so far together into a three-pane sketch showing the first few screens or steps of your solution to the Sprint questions.

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