Prototyping in design

08 August 2016 / By Peter Vee

Design thinking and Prototyping

The problem with design today is that there's no not nearly enough prototyping going on. Let me explain my wildly adventurous statement like this... Designers have gotten lazy in that they design within the limitations of the photoshop tools they had time or energy to learn.

When I started my journey into design, I never ever turned on a MAC. Now before you call me a T-Rex I am not prehistoric, I had just never turned a MAC on, they existed but not in my world. In fact in my first computer class a year later I couldn't even find the power button. Anyways, the founding years of my studies was all about taking design thinking to its bare minimum. We were taught to visualize, to build our ideas, to see things from all angles, to try again, to find the best solution to the problem. Computers have no doubt made the application easier and more refined, but have left modern designers short on technical concept development.

Designers have gotten lazy in that they design within the limitations of the photoshop tools they had time or energy to learn.

I love it when my son wants to play with Lego, if I can in any way help him "think with his hands" and build an early love for design thinking then I'm a happy camper. Just last weekend, we went to fetch some burgers on a Friday night and headed straight for the play area and left me with Lego jet. Within minutes I had dismantled his jet and started meticulously building an abstract empire with contrasting colors while experimenting with layers. It took me about 20 minutes to build and my son about 20 seconds to smash! That was the most challenging fun 20 minutes I'd had in a long time.

Prototyping in an agency

The misconception about prototyping is that many perceive it as the finished model of something that you're sending to be manufactured. This in part is true, but it goes way back to the thinking and planning stage. It's where you let your imagination run wild as you take a pen and doodle your ideas on a post it. Then when doodle 12 out of 144 is the one you love and you transfer that onto bigger paper and build on it with some markers.... Fast forward a few steps in the process and you've built yourself a 3D model out of cardboard that you look at, touch, turn around and thrash out changes on until you're 1000% happy that you've got a winner. From there you computerize and work on the final product as you've already eliminated all of the time wasters.

It's not just designers that use this method of visualization, but you also see prototyping in architectural design, engineering, financial, medical and many other industries. Why? Because it works! It ignites a section of the brain that you'd not necessarily have stimulated using a mouse or allowing a few software tools to depict the product of your creativity. Designers need time and resources to create, time that is not often available because of our manic lives and time is money. It's no wonder there is such a high rate of design burnout, because we're not designing anymore we're mass producing proverbial battery chickens in order to complete the job. Although prototyping may seem like a fancy play session fiddling with cute designs when you could be doing real work, prototyping generally yields results faster!

We had to design some pretty basic designs that wrapped around a take-away coffee cup. The computer attempts took months of back and forth and measurements and nudge a little to the left and nudge a little to right. After numerous failed attempts we just could get the curve of the logos and text the way we wanted them and the way the client wanted them more importantly. We then scrapped all of the Illustrator generated perspectives and designs, got out the pencils and paper, scissors and sticky tape and within 2 hours had created 3 prototypes that we digitized, submitted with smiles all round. We nailed it!

We have another post about the importance of website prototyping. Something we got right for Zinia.

About The Author

Peter Vee

Peter Vee is a Creative Director with a mind for digital and an eye for a winning concept.