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Revolutionizing product design: how we redefined the design process for a publishing company

We helped SM modify their work processes using Google's methodology.

At TeaCup Lab, we have been using the Design Sprint methodology in our client projects for several years.

While this methodology is commonly applied in a standardized manner for various purposes, in our approach, we tailor it to the specific needs of each client. A recent example of this is the project we carried out with the SM publishing company, where we implemented the methodology in the textbook design process.

This project is also a good example of the importance of understanding the context of each company thoroughly to apply the methodology effectively and ensure it has a real impact.

The Challenge

SM is an educational entity specialized in school educational material and children's and young adult literature, with a strong presence both in Spain and Latin America. In early 2020, they approached us seeking assistance in implementing the Design Sprint methodology to streamline the textbook design process and address some challenges they had identified in recent years.

In addition to facilitating a series of sprints, the project included a training phase to enable their team to independently conduct sprints.

Creating and editing a textbook is a complex task that involves collaboration from many individuals across various stages, and it encompasses various considerations, not just pedagogical but also legal, commercial, and technical. Therefore, we understood that to help SM achieve their goals, we couldn't merely conduct a series of Design Sprints without considering the bigger picture.

Instead, it was crucial to ensure that this activity met specific requirements:

  • Applied at the right stages of the process.
  • Could function with the available resources at each stage.
  • Generated results that the SM team could and would use.

Before commencing the project, we had the responsibility of asking a fundamental question: Is the Design Sprint the ideal solution for SM's needs, or perhaps our client required something different?

We operated under the assumption that Design Sprints are not a one-size-fits-all product applicable in the same way for all situations and purposes.

On the contrary, we regarded it as one of many tools available to an organization to drive their processes, but not the only one. Consequently, gaining a proper understanding of the context was the essential first step in assisting SM with their challenge.

The Process

1.Understand the problem
The work process we followed began with understanding the problem. We approached the project in stages, starting with a two-day remote session with the stakeholders, having two very clear objectives:

    1. Understanding SM's workflow and creating a map of the entire editorial process, including its key participants. Then, we asked the participants to share their perspective on the challenges and limitations of the process. Once the problems were prioritized, we incorporated them into the corresponding phase of the map to understand at which key moments we needed to intervene. We soon realized that slow decision-making was one of the main obstacles, though not the only one.
    2. On the second day, we followed a similar process to address the Design Sprint. After explaining the methodology's details to the team, we asked them to share their opinions on the opportunities and challenges they identified. By combining the work from both days, we managed to jointly understand and determine in which phase of the process we needed to intervene and which specific problems we could resolve through the implementation of the Design Sprint. 

2. Desinging the new process

Once we understood the context, we were ready to begin working. In summary, we concluded that the Design Sprint could be an effective solution, but we shouldn't use it as is; we needed to adapt it to different use cases that might arise to make it truly valuable.

So, we created customized versions of the Design Sprint for different objectives and moments in the process. While all the phases of a classic Design Sprint were retained, the activities within each of them varied based on the theme of each sprint (from designing a book page to organizing activities for students).

As a company primarily focused on user research, we understand the importance of integrating research thoroughly into Design Sprints to ensure that the ideas generated during the workshop are based on real user needs and can be effectively addressed. For this reason, one of the key aspects of the approach we designed for SM was the creation of a specific new process for validating the ideas generated during the Design Sprint. With this, we aimed to create a method that could not only be applied with minimal effort by a team without research experience but also assist them in turning each finding into concrete actions applicable to the evaluated concept.

3. Implement the process in projects and train future Sprint Masters.

We conducted a workshop with the company's future Sprint Masters, where we introduced them to the Design Sprint methodology and how we had adapted it to meet the specific needs of the publishing company.

Additionally, we provided them with practical tools to effectively facilitate sessions, lead the group, and select the most suitable activities to address any new challenges they might encounter in the future. In a later stage, four Sprint Masters applied the knowledge they had gained by co-facilitating two Design Sprints focused on real projects for the publishing company, alongside us.

4. Follow-up

Finally, as an essential part of the training, we provided a follow-up period during which the new Sprint Masters at SM could rely on our support for any questions or concerns related to the Sprints they conducted independently. In this way, we ensured that they could properly apply the knowledge they acquired and make the most of their capacity in executing future projects.


To achieve true innovation, it's essential to first address work processes.

If we had simply explained to SM how to conduct a Design Sprint, we likely wouldn't have succeeded in our attempt to bring about significant change.

It's important to note that the Design Sprint isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for every problem or context. While it's possible to apply the methodology in any situation, if we want it to have a real impact beyond the 4 days of the workshop, a more comprehensive approach is necessary.

What began as straightforward training evolved into a more ambitious project where we used the methodology to study and transform parts of the work processes of a publishing company in collaboration with their team.

The feedback we've received during the initial months of project follow-up has been very positive: SM's team has significantly accelerated decision-making and involved members from various areas of the company in the most creative phases of the process, leading to a genuine impact on the organization.

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TeaCup Lab is a user experience consultancy agency founded in Madrid in 2016. We specialize in User Research & User testing for global brands.
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