Gerry Derksen, Professor, Winthrop University, USA.

Zhabiz Shafieyoun, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, University of Illinois, USA.

Prototyping is central to design and teaching students to prototype well must be central to their education. The scope of prototyping has expanded to enabling each level of study, from undergraduate to PhD, to reify their ideas. We propose a set of topics outlined by Scaletsky et al. (2014), which include developmental, experimental and provocative prototypes. Currently, design education uses studio time for developmental prototyping; learning the process, skills and forms of production. These are useful skills, however it is only one area of prototyping currently covered in design education. There are new pressures on design educators to include topics such as new technologies, added theory, and methods that have changed studio curriculum. What have we learned from the ‘prototyping’ class? How do we teach designers to learn from making? Can we offer the ‘werkbund’ experience to all design students where they can produce full-scale prototypes? To paraphrase John C. Maxwell, ‘learn fast by failing early and often’ describes the strategy of experimental prototyping. The goals of experimental prototypes are not to create something for production, but rather to create something that embodies a theory to be explored. In the experimental type the notion of learning is more strongly bound to the observation of the user and objects in use. Theory is meant to benefit practice as generalizable knowledge that is applied to a variety of scenarios and contexts. Design students at the master’s level should be well versed in the experimental form of prototyping. It is uncertain which form of prototyping comes first, experimental or provocative, but it is clear that we use the latter less often in the design process. Using prototypes as a form of brain-storming can help explore new behaviours, challenge presumptions, and offer new approaches to old ways of doing things. Provocative prototypes do not attempt to refine or address research questions but rather challenge people to think in novel or interesting ways. Prototypes are more important to the design process in all forms of design and often underutilized as a way of thinking about design problems. The subject is broad enough for new designers to learn more about their function and to be expanded further by many design researchers. This track would like to explore, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Developmental – Production prototyping.
  • Experimental – Prototype as thought experiment.
  • Provocative – Prototype as idea generator.
  • Prototypes are central to design – Design education starting with prototyping.
  • Boundary objects – Prototyping consensus, collaboration.
  • Large format prototypes – Systems designing for scale and complexity.
  • Evaluation and analysis of prototypes.
  • The dark side of prototyping – Catastrophic failure, fixation, and other prototyping problems.
  • New tech beyond the rapid – High and low fidelity, functionality, add-on features.
  • Types of prototypes – Aesthetic, functional, structural, alpha-beta-gold standard.
  • Observing users – Prototype testing.


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