Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prototyping is an Essential Step in the Design Process

Prototyping is a key factor in developing designs. Along with ideation, visualization and presentation, prototyping is one of the key steps students should learn in attacking a design problem or any challenge for that matter. In any design assignment, students should be taught how and expected to create several prototypes.

It is often hard to determine whether a new design will actually do what is desired because there are often unexpected problems. A prototype is often used as part of the product design process to allow engineers and designers the ability to explore design alternatives, test theories and confirm performance prior to starting production of a new product. Some prototypes are used to confirm and verify consumer interest in a proposed design whereas other prototypes will attempt to verify the performance or suitability of a specific design approach.

Prototyping is an iterative process in which prototypes are designed, constructed and tested as the final design emerges and is prepared for production. With rare exceptions, multiple iterations of prototypes are used to progressively refine the design. A common strategy is to design, test, evaluate and then modify the design based on analysis of the prototype.

Some of the main reasons prototyping is important include:

A. Prototypes make your designs better.
B. Prototypes make it possible to communicate progress visually.
C. Prototypes enable others to provide input and try out design concepts while they're being developed.
D. Prototypes help reduce development time because design flaws can be caught ahead of time.

It's a good idea to get your design ideas in front of people in order to gather feedback. Prototype early and often.

Click on the heading above for an excellent article about the prototyping process by Dave Cronin on the Adobe website.

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