What is it?
Prototyping is used for finding new solutions for challenges or for creating a new product through the use of prototypes. Using simple materials to create mock-ups or simulate environments and situations, prototyping is building for â€“ and with â€“ users. The experiences and prototypes can be used as thinking tools for the development phase and ideation process of a project.
Prototyping is done in 3 ways: â€˜Mock-upsâ€™, â€˜draw an experienceâ€™ or â€˜body stormingâ€™. â€˜Mock-upsâ€™ are simulating actual physical products or services, â€˜draw an experienceâ€™ is drawing a service or product in order to visualize your ideas and add the necessary details. â€˜Body stormingâ€™ focuses on the interaction between user and service/product in a specific situation. In all 3 methods of prototyping, the point is to create a situation or prototype, which will ensure the new solutions durability and effectiveness. The 3 prototyping methods can be used in combination, or by themselves.
How is it done?
For all three methods
Limit the challenge in a field of inquiry
Find out what the challenge is. Once you have this preliminary knowledge you can choose the method or methods, which are suitable for solving it.
Find the stakeholders
Use both users and employees. 4-7 participants is adequate but bigger challenges may take more resources and hence more participants.
Prepare one or more workshops
Plan the workshops for your stakeholders with a structured program. It is a good idea to document them by use of a camera.
The workshop is basically a focus group interview where the participantsâ€™ ideas are mixed and new solutions emerge. You should provide a comfortable atmosphere, food and beverages, post-its, markers, paper and whiteboards for the creation and retention of ideas. It is an excellent idea to have some building blocks and similar objects as a tool for displaying and categorizing ideas if you are designing a new product. During the workshop you need 1-2 observers and at least 1 coordinator to facilitate the creativity of the participants and document their teamwork. Make sure they have notebooks to write down their impressions and experiences.
You can do mock-ups both in order to simulate new products and in order to test services. When you are doing mock-ups of services, you create a simulated physical environment for your users, where the focus is on the movement in and interaction with the surroundings. It is also possible to simulate the service situation and focus on the interaction between the user and the service.
Draw an experience
When doing â€˜draw an experienceâ€™, the stakeholders are to visualize the product, service or environment through a drawing. The drawing can be extended with more detail, commented and given a narrative. â€˜Draw an experienceâ€™ is a creative tool, which furthers the thought process, discussion and a general view for both the facilitators and the participants.
Body storming uses elements of role-playing and â€˜mock-upsâ€™ to test various interactions with the service or product. The point is to move into the situation and test itâ€™s potential. Body storming means testing of a product, where it is used. A body storming session is setting up the physical setting you want to study. The visualization and â€˜acting outâ€™ of the service situation enables you to identify possibilities for improvement and change. Itâ€™s a matter of doing ideas.
For all three methods
Gather material and impressions
After the prototyping workshops, you gather your impressions and documentation to be used in an analysis workshop.
Facilitate an analysis workshop
The goal of the analysis workshop is to reach a temporary solution. This solution works as the point of departure for new workshops. Make sure the participants explain exactly how the solution could be better for them and use that input in the final solution. The methods focus group interview, semi-structured interviews, observations and scenarios are suitable for acquiring the necessary knowledge during the analysis workshop.
What does it take?
The method can effectively be conducted in 1-4 weeks depending on the number of workshops. In larger prototyping processes you may need several analysis workshops.
- Tools such as paper, pencils, markers, post-its, cardboard and tape
- Building blocks for prototyping products.
- Camera for documenting the process and results.
- It is advantageous to have a space for “mock-up” of services and “body storming”. These methods require space and potentially big building blocks such as cardboard crates.
- Food and drink during the workshops.
- A computer for writing up the results and gathering documentation.
The method takes 4-10 employees. They don’t necessarily need to have any specific skills. Consider that a broad competence base is suitable for solving complex prototyping challenges so you should find employees and stakeholders with different educational background. Make sure you have at least one coordinator to keep track of the budget, time frame, and maintaining focus during the workshops.
Casper is the director at a theater, which is establishing a new stage. His challenge is to find out how to design the new building, how to manage the wardrobe, and which plays to feature on the stage. In order to solve this problem he decides to use the different methods of prototyping.
First he identifies the stakeholders and experts in the arena. He finds an engineer, a software developer, a service employee from the wardrobe, an interior designer, a design school student, and the chairman of the board of the theater. Some of the stakeholders are employees and others are invited guests. Casper invites them to participate in a series of workshops, where they are to discuss suggestions for solving the challenge of establishing the new stage. He has prepared some exercises and situations they are to discuss and body storm and he has prepared a mock-up of a new receipt system to be used in the wardrobe. Casper has also prepared a discussion of the possibilities for branding the new stage through its genre of plays. Along the way they are to fabricate a series of drawings not only of the layout and features of the new building, but also of the functions of it. He and a co-facilitator takes notes and records the sessions on a mounted camera and they make sure to keep all sketches, quick mock-ups, and drawings. Finally Casper has arranged an empty room and some cardboard boxes for them to physically build a miniature version of the way they imagine the new building. These setups are also documented with the camera.
After the workshops, Casper and his co-facilitator gather the materials and peruse the photographic documentation. They find that the stakeholders all have relevant objections and good points about their side of the design. Based on the points raised by the participants, they work out one main suggestion for the design and this new design is the point of departure for the next workshop.
Casper has invited the stakeholders to participate in yet another workshop. They have made a draft of a new digitalized wardrobe system and a new draft of the interior design. They have also made a list of ten plays to brand to the new stage. The participants discuss these new drafts and make corrections and improvements. The same practicalities are managed by Casper as they were during the last workshop.
After the workshop, Casper and his colleague repeat the analysis of the new material but now they have enough knowledge to make valuable recommendations to the board of the theater.
Using the insights from the prototyping sessions to failsafe the solutions enables the theater to construct a new stage with an innovative design, a digitalized wardrobe system, and new feature program.
More on the method
Further readings on prototyping:
Kelley, Tom (2005) – Ten Faces of Innovation – Currency: Doubleday
Myers, Michael D. (2008) – Qualitative Research in Business and Management – UK: Sage Publications