Last week was spent with the fantastic team from MQ: Transforming Mental Health, in an intense, week-long design sprint.

If you don't know what a design sprint is:

  1. you shouldn't have ignored the last link, like you just did
  2. it is a short (three days to two weeks, but normally a week), intense period of collaborative working to go from problem to user tested solution. It can rocket a project forward in a way that ordinary working practices just can’t match and we are bang into it.

We were surprised at how much can be achieved in just one week! At the end of the process we have a well-developed prototype and some detailed user insight, which puts us in a much stronger position when we go out to potential funders for the development.

– Kathryn Excell, Head of Digital, MQ: Transforming Mental Health

What did you do with MQ?

Well, it's 'early stage' so I can't say too much, but I think I can say that we looked at the problems and opportunities around getting people involved in mental health research and how we can help researchers address the difficulties they face. We did it over five days using a fairly standard design sprint format.

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Who was involved?

Product owner and Head of Digital, Kat Excell; Neil Balmer, Director of Communications and, several others including a user champion, and representatives of two other really key groups.

We also conducted 'expert interviews' with the Chief Executive and Director of Research, to make sure they were on board.

Running the design sprint with Torchbox helped us focus in on our key goals, who we are trying to reach, and what the most impactful outcome will be for MQ. The facilitation of the week was spot on - Torchbox helped us navigate a lot of questions and complicated decision making, always bringing us back to our main goal and vision.

– Kathryn Excell, Head of Digital, MQ: Transforming Mental Health

And on Torchbox's side?

Our core team was facilitator and UX consultant Alan Colville, and lead designer Ben Enright, they were the two constants. I (Olly Willans, Creative Director) participated in Days 2, 3 and 5, and Kyle Magee a User Researcher assisted on Day 4. Sprint teams can be quite a bit bigger, but we can cut our cloth to fit a budget too.

Where did it happen?

We did the first two days at MQ and the next three at Torchbox in Bristol. Kat and Neil came down on the Wednesday and Kat on the Friday, others dialled into the user tests remotely.


One highlight of the first two days was the Experience Map that we created for a Researcher. It didn’t end up being what we focused the sprint on, but MQ loved it all the same. It uncovered a world of insight into what researchers go through and things that could be better.

How did it go?

The MQ design sprint was really successful on a number of levels but particularly because…

1. The vision crystallized and then offered up exciting, new opportunities

It quickly became clear that everyone felt that the original idea had‘legs’and indeed, the further we got into it, the more the opportunity evolved. We didn’t prototype it all, but there is something far more exciting to imagine now than when we started out. Hidden treasure. Massive tick.

Now I'm in the website, I'm really interested to play around. I’m actually curious to find out about tests that don’t even apply to me!

– User testing participant (while exploring the prototype)

2. We produced something that we and the users were excited about

Despite us spending a good percentage of the sprint exploring the space and developing the ideas, we managed to output a prototype that was good enough to get us and the users excited. Of course, it wasn’t flawless, there is masses to improve, but it’s actually high enough quality get people excited. Another big tick.

Sadly, we can't share the prototype here in high fidelity, it is an idea in development, and it's commercially sensitive. However, we're excited about where this could go for MQ and hope there will be something to link to in the not-too-distant future.


Design sprints are great for driving your products and sites forward fast. We can do the work that would normally take weeks or months in days. And, we can shape our team based on the expertise that's most needed: data specialists, UX experts, technical architects etc. Design sprints help you innovate quicker, period.

So, if you have a problem... and you want to sort it quickly... and you are prepared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in... hire our design sprint team.