The design courses blog for BA (Hons)
and HND Vis Comm at Edinburgh College

Sprint Friday in Berlin

12 February 2018

Traditionally as part of our annual Berlin study trip in February we arrange a studio visit. In past years this has included the generosity of Saatchi, TLGG and Eden Spiekermann. This year we were lucky enough to visit Axel Springer, one of the world's largest publishers, on the Wednesday (which we'll report on in a separate post) and AJ&Smart, one of the foremost exponents of the 'Design Sprint' ethos in modern visual communication, on the Friday.

The AJ&Smart studio is located in East Berlin, close to the East Side Gallery (one of the few intact parts of the Berlin Wall). The studio was founded by Aussie Michael Smart and Irishman Jonathan Courtney, and includes employees from the UK, Finland, Brazil, Russia, Poland, and of course Germany.  We were lucky enough to meet Michael when our group - all 40 students - arrived just before 4pm on Friday.

Huge glyphs on a wall right opposite the AJ&Smart office on Kopernicker Strasse.

Our students are all set to hear from the lovely folks at AJ&Smart

Venla Hakunti and Rob Hamblen, both wearing some cosy-looking AJ&Smart slippers, put together a great welcome and a fantastic presentation to the students.  The presentation focussed on the company's 4-day sprint process, itself based on the original 5-day model devised by Jake Knapp, a design partner at Google Ventures and the author of the best-selling book 'Sprint'.

Rob introduced some of AJ&Smart's clients - who have included Air BNB, Slack, and Europe's biggest retailer MOVMNT - and talked about their approach to design thinking and how the studio selects and manages its projects.  He then explained the typical sprint process at AJ&Smart - ideation, sketching/storyboarding, prototyping and testing - then demo'd some awesome sprint products, including a really cool mobile app for Red Bull and a (prototype) real bar of chocolate.

Something AJ&Smart build up plenty of during a Design Sprint

Rob explaining the four day sprint model.

As well as reeling off too many great quotes to list here, Rob, himself an HND graduate in Graphic Design, then gave a great Q&A, and our students asked some really sharp questions about generating ideas, dealing with clients, planning, timescales and process.

The AJ&Smart experience also included some nice refreshments and a general natter at the very end, and all of our students were clearly buzzing after the talk. It's always amazing when busy organisations take the time to host talks to students, and everyone agreed this was a big highlight of the 2018 Berlin trip.  Massive thanks to Venla, Rob and also to Danny Holtschke for making this all happen.  Hopefully we will visit again next year!

We left AJ&Smart a heartfelt message.

They even do Design Sprints in the AJ&Smart toilet!