Our prototyping approach
At its most practical level, prototyping is an applied design thinking process; it is the act of thinking with our hands. In this context, prototyping is not limited to the methods that designers use to create artifacts or products—it has a much broader application that can be used across the innovation process.
Prototyping is a type of problem solving. It can be applied as a mental model to tackle innovation challenges when questioning and testing the status quo. Whether it is used to test initial key assumptions or to experiment with different hypotheses at each design iteration, prototyping is the physical embodiment of tested theories, ideas, and solutions.
But prototyping is also a method of storytelling. It enables us to communicate an idea, feature, use case, value, or intent through a medium that is visual, interactive, and human. Prototyping brings the words to life through form, allowing for greater engagement between the design itself and the human body and mind. In doing this, prototyping allows key stakeholders in the design process to better understand, connect with, and ultimately support the ideas behind the design.
At Idea Couture, we approach prototyping with the flexibility and humility needed to challenge our own assumptions and test these assumptions against real-world situations. Though our assumptions often fail, these failures provide insight into how we can improve our designs—from both technical and experiential standpoints. Through quick and iterative prototyping, we explore different forms and feature sets, and by continually evolving our approach, we are able to develop increasingly clearer pictures of market-ready solutions to the problems at hand.
Exploratory prototyping is a rapid, divergent, and rough investigation that involves the first materialization of thought into concept. The prototypes resulting from this work are unrefined in appearance and are highly disposable. However, the speed at which exploratory prototypes are produced allows for iterative and effective learning.
At this stage, few ideas or features are fully formed, and the act of prototyping helps us explore and refine our thinking. Though there are typically few stakeholders involved at this stage, exploratory prototyping helps us flesh out key aspects of a concept and its use cases. By sparking discussion, exploratory prototyping helps us converge upon a solid design direction.
Appearance prototypes are the result of visualizing form factors in realistic, contextual environments. These prototypes are intended to represent a product or service concept in a way that looks true to the natural scenario or use case in which that concept would be encountered; however, they are not necessarily designed to function as the product is intended to function. Appearance prototypes can be physical or virtual assets. The appearance design stage represents the intersection of human desires and emotive details, such as color, material, and texture.
Visualization of a concept as a physical or virtual asset allows the design team at Idea Couture to evaluate the prototype’s design based on the initial customer experience or reaction. Aspects of the design can then be refined, including shape, color, material, and finish choices. Using high-fidelity prototyping techniques, we can produce models that depict the look and feel of the final concept, resulting in a beautiful artifact that can play a central role in telling the story of a product or service use case.
Developmental prototyping is a way of understanding the technical risks, evaluating different technology options, and proving the feasibility of functions and features outlined in conceptualization. We complete this stage to validate technical assumptions in a more raw, dynamic, and flexible manner so that we can further explore the realities of the features and use cases identified before committing to a more fixed design.
Developmental prototyping is typically completed as an internal exercise. This form of prototyping gives our team of engineers, designers, and developers the opportunity to experiment with different technologies, designs, and interactions in order to understand what elements lead to a well-functioning, positive experience. The goal of creating these prototypes is to test and learn about the basic functionality of a design on a flexible platform that allows for tweaks and modifications of a smaller subset of features.
Experiential prototypes allow us to interact with multiple features of a product at the same time. These prototypes are close approximations to the finished product. They provide a great platform for testing usability, human factors, and user experience. The designers at Idea Couture have end-to-end experience developing products with market adoption and commercialization in mind.
Idea Couture has created a wide range of products, and our experiential prototypes have thus taken multiple forms. We have created everything from a stand-alone devices to a full-fledged ecosystem of devices, applications, and backend data analysis. Full integration of hardware and software allows for accurate representations of the final user experience. The intent of this exploration is not necessarily about the product itself—rather, it is about the user experience enabled by this product. At Idea Couture, we are passionate about designing experiences that go beyond the product to create lasting impressions.