Design Thinking – Prototyping (Phase 5)

Prototyping is a rough and rapid portion of the design process. A prototype can be a sketch, model, or a cardboard box. It is a way to convey an idea quickly. Students learn that it is better to fail early and often as they create prototypes. This bring us back to the opening statement of the Design Thinking category. “DESIGN is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

So why prototyping?

  • Develop and iterate ideas
  • Find hidden issues
  • Create common understanding
  • Define the problem
  • Ensure early and regular feedback

Some more reasons why?

  • To ideate and problem-solve. Build to think.
  • To communicate. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.
  • To start a conversation. Your interactions with users are often richer when centered around a conversation piece. A prototype is an opportunity to have another, directed conversation with a user.
  • To fail quickly and cheaply. Committing as few resources as possible to each idea means less time and money invested up front.
  • To test possibilities. Staying low-res allows you to pursue many different ideas without committing to a direction too early on.
  • To manage the solution-building process. Identifying a variable also encourages you to break a large problem down into smaller, testable chunks.


Prototyping is problem solving. It’s a culture and a language. You can prototype just about anything -a new product or service, or a special promotion. What counts is moving the ball forward, achieving some part of your goal. NOT WASTING TIME.

There are a number of methods for pototyping but the goal is the experience.

Low Fidelity Mockups:

  • Demonstrate the functionality and the Look and Feel of your solution
  • Compose low fidelity mockups by using simple materials (instead of coding)
  • Don’t try to be perfect.
  • Key functionality and screen flow, rather than finalized screenshots.


  • Visualize your solution
  • Make it tangible by sketching it out
  • Storyboards help viewers to share the holistic experience a user of a product or service might go through

ROLE PLAYS.The stage is yours and you are the actors

  • Show the solution through the user eyes
  • Eg in the “day in the life” of your persona
  • Show the impact of your idea.
  • Don’t try to be too perfect
  • “feeling the idea is key, not perfect make up”

Different prototypes in different phases:


FAIL EARLY. FAIL OFTEN. And always learn + improve your solution

  • The better it looks the more narrow the feedback
  • Failure is simply part of understanding and improving.

PROTOTYPE is about converting your idea into something that people can experience.

Prototype and Test are modes that you consider in tandem more than you transition between. What you are trying to test and how you are going to test that aspect are critically important to consider before you create a prototype. Examining these two modes in conjunction brings up the layers of testing a prototype. Though prototyping and testing are sometimes entirely intertwined, it is often the case that planning and executing a successful testing scenario is a
considerable additional step after creating a prototype. Don’t assume you can simply put a prototype in front of a user to test it; often the most informative results will be a product of careful thinking about how to test in a way that will let users give you the most natural and honest feedback.

Next up: Testing


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