A prototype is the next step of an idea. It’s not enough to describe your idea. You need to build it because you will learn more about your idea when the people that will be affected by it can interact with it. Prototypes are tools for learning about and sharing ideas—ways to test assumptions and start new conversations to see if you are on the right track. You are building a model of an idea that people can interact with.
Caption & image description: A prototype of an alarm clock.
Why do we prototype?
It’s hard to test a concept. We can’t tell if your description of something “big and blue” is the same as someone else’s until you put that something in front of them. When you build a prototype of your idea, you make your decisions and design features visible. This visibility helps people engage with them in an authentic way. This authentic behaviour is good learning (feedback) to continue improving your idea.
What does a prototype look like?
When we think of prototyping, we often think of building models of a physical product, or maybe a digital interface. But the same principles can be used to prototype an experience, a space, a service, or a combination of integrated solutions.
These are just a handful of the many ways you can build a tangible representation of an idea:
Roleplay or skit
Agenda or event plan
Fake tweet or social post
Advertisements, posters or news coverage
Sketches, drawings and concept maps
Caption: Notebook sketches and doodles are prototypes too!
Stocking a prototyping toolkit
It’s handy to have a kit of materials around when thinking about turning an idea into a prototype. A good prototyping kit has a variety of options to build with and encourages people to forget their inhibitions. We like to stock ours with easy to find craft and decorating materials, templates and materials to draw with, and nostalgic toys that remind us of our childhood creativity.
Here are some examples:
Ribbon or thread
Blocks of wood
Geographical maps or blueprints
And so on!
Caption: Pipe cleaners make great prototype tools.
Most importantly, just try! It's not a regular part of many workplaces, but finding small ways to build your ideas and sharing them will get you better results, invite more ideas and help you refine your ideas.
In Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge, we live and work on the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Haudenosaunee, Neutral peoples.
Overlap is recognized as a Government of Ontario Vendor of Record in the Management Consulting Category Organizational Transformation, with roles as an Organizational Transformation Consultant and Strategic Public Engagement Specialist. TENDER #7434