reliefkey

person writing on white paper to prototype

The fun, and frustration of prototyping

I’ve got an idea!
 
Now, how does that idea actually become real and go together?
 
That’s what prototyping is for. So you can mess up a bunch, with minimal consequences, so that you can figure out how something, that doesn’t exist yet, and there’s no manual for, should function. As well as how it should be formed, and, well, while you’re at it, what color(s) it should be.
 
There are a few different types of prototyping. Such as rapid prototyping, prototyping for form, and prototyping for function. As well as high fidelity prototyping, low fidelity prototyping, and feasibility prototyping.
 
Rapid prototyping
It’s actually a lot slower than rapid, but rapid sounds cool and, compared to how people used to make products, it’s a lot faster.
Rapid prototyping is when you use things like cardboard, 3d printing, laser cutting, and other tools that allow you to quickly and (relatively) easily make prototypes before you go into mass production or launch a product. Or, in our case, use the expensive materials that we want the final version to be made of.
 
You can make versions, each with a small change made to test and see what’s ideal. This helps you find the optimal solution more quickly than making the whole thing, shipping it, then finding an issue and making the whole thing again, then finding another issue, then again, and again, until finally, you have the REAL final product.
 
Prototyping form
With certain renditions, prototyping you can focus on just protoping the form of the product. For instance, get the shape and esthetic just right. Sometimes, but rarely, it’s the first one that you end up going with.
 
 
Prototyping function
You know what they say, form follows function. Thus, we typically start by trying to figure out the function and how the features and experience of the product should work. Should the handle form to your hand, should it hold more than one backup item, where should the opening be placed.
 
You can play around with things like that in various prototypes, and after finding the function you can being to design the form, I.E. make it look cool and interesting.
 
High fidelity prototyping
Obviously the opposite of low fidelity prototypes, but this is more along the lines of a 3d print or laser cut prototype. It’s actually useable and functional.
 
When prototyping software this is something made with invision, or adobe xd where you can actually click through screens and have a UI that’s usable. Just no code/database behind it.
 
Low fidelity prototyping
Low fidelity prototyping is more along the lines of using cardboard and tape or glue to quickly make adjustments and new versions. The best place to start is always with a low-fidelity prototype.
 
In software, this is as simple as drawing screens and having users just touch the paper. Also doable with physical products, just draw out a couple of iterations so you get even further ahead without spending too much time cutting and gluing.
 
Feasibility prototyping
This is just a way to learn if something is going to work. It saying, “let’s throw this together really quickly and see if we can kind of get it to work so we don’t make something and give it to the client or ship it to the public and then find out it actually wasn’t feasible and doesn’t work whatsoever or that people really didn’t want it in the first place.”
 
…looking at you china knock-offs.
 
Play
If you take out all the stress of breaking things, things like parts not fitting together. Prototyping is tremendous fun, it allows you to play and not be beholden to one idea, essentially giving you the freedom to explore concepts and ideas you wouldn’t have normally considered or even thought of. It’s a kind of experimental play, no worrying about “getting it wrong because there is no wrong, you’re just searching for what works. You also don’t have to worry about wasting material because you can use low-cost materials that don’t look as elegant.
 
How you can prototype
Say you’re organizing and having trouble deciding exactly what shelf your pants should live on. Instead of overthinking it, do an experimental prototype system. Try the first shelf for a week, then the second shelf for a week. At the end of the second week, make your decision after having collected your data about which you like better.
 
You can also use cardboard, like I do, to prototype various solutions around the house, maybe a holster for your hairdryer to take it out of the drawer?
 
If you want a prototype we do prototyping for $500 dollars. Which gets you 5 versions out of cardboard. We can also prototype using 3D printing which is $3000 for 5 versions. (for context, you could design it yourself and have a website print one, and that costs roughly $1000, so this is a pretty smoking deal)
 
So do you have an idea now?
 

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