The way to create something of excellence, is to first build something imperfect.
Please share, I’d really appreciate it. – Knowing how to interact with Prototypes can be very helpful to both development and executive teams. Below I run through what to expect from different versions of prototypes.
It’s a term we often come across in our work, deriving from the Greek word prototypon meaning primitive-form. It’s interesting to understand the etymology but more valuable to understand the language associated with prototypes. I have created a review, distilled across four architypes in their typical order of appearance in the project lifecycle (although not always):
Visual – Prototypes conveying overall form and size but generally limited in functionality and not created to represent the materials or production methods of a final mass produced product. Visual prototypes can be a as simple as a sketch, 3D CAD model or animation. In UX design visual prototypes may be simple illustrations that capture aspects of interface such as an idea, layout, form, aesthetic, or sequence of the key elements. Storyboarding is another creative visual method used for prototyping projects, services and interactions using a series of graphics that visualise a sequence of events.
Proof of concept (POC) – Often blending with visual prototyping, POC demonstrates the main functionality of the idea. This type of prototype may often look nothing like the intended end design. It will probably make use of ‘off the shelf’ components and be very ‘clunky’. It can be a short, unpolished version of a creative work such as a song, film, visual design, game or business application. You’ll hear the phrases low fidelity, minimum viable product (MVP), mockup and paper-prototype when dealing with the POC stage. To fit into this architype the prototype must be an implementation of a method or design to prove that it can work, so simulations and validation testing can often be used as the prototype or alongside it.
Presentation – This type of working prototype combines the nearly all of the functionality of the product with the overall appearance. To achieve this, often bespoke parts need to be created in production grade materials. At this stage, activities like form-studies are used to explores size, shape and appearance now that the design concept is more developed. It may be the case that until this stage it is not really possible to know the overall volume needed for internal electronics or battery storage etc. Scale models could be included here too as historically such models have been used to interrogate things such as aerodynamics. It’s also described as functional prototyping and in UX design it might take the form of a working interface for extracting test data. It’s sometimes not a big jump from MVP to Presentation prototypes depending on the product, project or service being developed.
Pre-Production – Well of course all prototypes are pre-production, but this really is the last stage before committing to tooling, launch or production. This type of embodiment prototype builds on the work of a presentation prototypes by fully considering mass production manufacturing methods, assembly and material requirements. The parts really need to be created using the chosen production methods and materials.