Science for Artists

Inspiration and Truth

Prototyping

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Photo by Katarina Countiss

Excerpt from Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Brown, Tim (Book – 2009) page 106-107

Prototyping is always inspirational—not in the sense of a perfected artwork but just the opposite: because it inspires new ideas. Prototyping should start early in the life of a project, and we expect them to be numerous, quickly executed, and pretty ugly. Each one is intended to develop an idea “just enough” to allow the team to learn something and move on. At this relatively low level of resolution, it’s almost always the best for the team members to make their own prototypes and not outsource them to others. Designers may require a fully equipped model shop, but design thinkers can “build” prototypes in the cafeteria, a boardroom, or a hotel suite.

One way to motivate early-stage prototyping is to set a goal: to have a prototype ready by the end of the first week or even the first day. Once tangible expressions begin to emerge, it becomes easy to try them out and elicit feedback internally from management and externally from potential customers. Indeed one of the measures of an innovative organization is its average time to first prototype. In some organizations it takes months or even years—the automobile industry is a telling example. In the most creative organizations, it can happen within a few days.

In the ideation space we build prototypes to develop our ideas to ensure that they incorporate the functional and emotional elements necessary to meet the demands of the market.  As the project moves forward, the number of prototypes will go down while the resolution of each one goes up, but the purpose remains the same: to help refine an idea and improve it. If the precision required at this stage exceeds the capabilities of the team, it may be necessary to turn to outside experts—model maker\s, videographers, writers, or actors, as the case may be—for help.

In the third space of innovation [first one being inspiration, and second, ideation] we are concerned with implementation: communicating an idea with sufficient clarity to gain acceptance across the organization, proving it, and showing that it will work in its intended market. Here too, the habit of prototyping plays an essential role. At different stages, the prototype may serve to validate a subassembly of a subassembly: the graphics on a screen, the armrest of a chair, or a detail in the interaction between a blood donor and a Red Cross volunteer. As the project near completion, prototypes will likely be more complete. They will probably be expensive and complex and may be indistinguishable from the real thing. By this time you know you have a good idea: you just don’t yet know how good it is.

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Author: KC

I am Katarina Countiss, a multimedia designer. I like blogs, games, art and technology. I am curious about how things are made.

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