What we need to acknowledge is that prototyping can gain a new meaning in the hands of industrial designers – especially those who work with things that have interactive components. This is because the prototype, more than a model or a visualization, can represent or simulate the experience of the end user. We live in an era with so many accessible tools to prototyping experiences that, we can no longer excuse ourselves with the lack of technical skills. We can no longer get away with saying “imagine when you touch here, this thing will light up”. With tools like rapid prototyping, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, MakeyMakey, Touchboard and many more, we can take the power back and make peace with the tools that once belonged to the engineers. The classical way of designing; research, sketching, modeling, polishing, refining is far from enough for the profession of Industrial Design to survive the 21st century. Interaction Design has already taken this path without hesitation with great examples coming especially from students fromUmea Institute of Design, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, MIT and many more.
TINKERING IS THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE
A design that is static can fool anyone. What we have always heard from our teachers was to just mock-it-up quickly. A clay model or a rough foam mockup can definitely add the necessary 3rd dimensional insight but… A mockup always seems like it has the potential of turning into a great product. Usually though, great mockups that do not work, end up fooling the designers themselves more than anybody. Even the lowest fidelity experience prototype is ten times more useful than the greatest looking mockup. The designer will see more flaws in his creation through the eyes of the user with something “working almost as if” than something that “looking almost as if”. Better yet, though, the designer will explore more potential by letting real people touch the ideals of his imagination than putting them on a pedestal and protecting them. By improving our tools, we can also improve our point-of-view. The power of making things work beautifully is surely more attractive than making beautiful things.