Finding The Right Prototype Maker For Your Product

One of the best ways to gain insights in a Design Thinking process is to carry out some form of prototyping. This method involves producing an early, inexpensive, and scaled down version of the product in order to reveal any problems with the current design. Prototyping offers designers the opportunity to bring their ideas to life, test the practicability of the current design, and to potentially investigate how a sample of users think and feel about a product.

Prototypes are often used in the final, testing phase in a Design Thinking process in order to determine how users behave with the prototype, to reveal new solutions to problems, or to find out whether or not the implemented solutions have been successful. The results generated from these tests are then used to redefine one or more of the problems established in the earlier phases of the project, and to build a more robust understanding of the problems users may face when interacting with the product in the intended environment.

Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

  1. Prototyping and product development: this is why we get up in the morning PRG Prototyping is a high quality product development firm that specializes in producing prototypes for plastic, metal, electronics and textile products.
  2. We have a local company in Lake Forest. They can make a prototype for as little as $300-$600. Before you say that costs too much for a product you will sell for $19.95, think about the real costs. You can your prototype product to your investors and people who might be your customers. And you can test your product.
  3. Combine your 3D design with an invention portfolio. An Invention Portfolio is a web based marketing tool used to showcase your invention to companies. It is a very helpful and efficient tool that consolidates your photorealistic 3D product images or prototype/product pictures with professionally written product descriptions and audio.

The Bannersnack ad maker has a diverse gallery of templates and several categories that you can browse to find a design that fits your needs. The templates are categorized in automotive, holidays and events, software and technologies, health, education, business, ecommerce, and many more.

The five stages in the Design Thinking process are not always sequential — they do not have to follow any specific order, they can often occur in parallel and be repeated iteratively. As such, the stages should be understood as different modes that contribute to a project, rather than sequential steps.

When designers want to determine and understand exactly how users will interact with a product, the most obvious method is to test how the users interact with the product. It would be foolhardy and pointless to produce a finished product for the users to test. Instead, designers can provide simple, scaled down versions of their products, which can then be used in order to observe, record, judge, and measure user performance levels based on specific elements, or the users’ general behaviour, interactions, and reactions to the overall design. These earlier versions are known as prototypes; they are not necessarily in the medium of the finished product as this may not be cost-effective in terms of time or money.

Prototypes are built so that designers can think about their solutions in a different way (tangible product rather than abstract ideas), as well as to fail quickly and cheaply, so that less time and money is invested in an idea that turns out to be a bad one. Tim Brown, CEO of the international design and innovation firm IDEO, said it best:

“They slow us down to speed us up. By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea for too long.”
– Tim Brown

Author/Copyright holder: Rodolphe Courtier. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

For instance, when developing software, a design team may produce a number of paper prototypes, as shown in the image above, which the user can gradually work through in order to demonstrate to the design team or evaluators how they may tackle certain tasks or problems. When developing tangible devices, such as the computer mouse, designers may use a number of different materials to enable them to test the basic technology underlying the product. With advances in 3D printing technology, producing prototypes is now often a more instant and low cost process, and as a result this has allowed designers to provide stakeholders with accurate and testable/useable replica models before settling upon a particular design.

Types of Prototyping

Prototyping methods are generally divided into two separate categories: low- and high-fidelity prototyping.

Low-Fidelity Prototyping

Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Low-fidelity prototyping involves the use of basic models or examples of the product being tested. For example, the model might be incomplete and utilise just a few of the features that will be available in the final design, or it might be constructed using materials not intended for the finished article, such as wood, paper, or metal for a plastic product. Low-fidelity prototypes can either be models that are cheaply and easily made, or simply recounts or visualisations of them.

Examples of low-fidelity prototypes:

  • Storyboarding.
  • Sketching (although Bill Buxton, a pioneer of human-computer interaction, argues sketching is not an example of prototyping).
  • Card sorting.
  • 'Wizard of Oz'.

Pros of Low-Fidelity Prototyping

  • Quick and inexpensive.
  • Possible to make instant changes and test new iterations.
  • Disposable/throw-away.
  • Enables the designer to gain an overall view of the product using minimal time and effort, as opposed to focusing on the finer details over the course of slow, incremental changes.
  • Available to all; regardless of ability and experience, we are able to produce rudimentary versions of products in order to test users or canvas the opinions of stakeholders.
  • Encourages and fosters design thinking.

Cons of Low-Fidelity Prototyping

  • An inherent lack of realism. Due to the basic and sometimes sketchy nature of low-fi prototypes, the applicability of results generated by tests involving simple early versions of a product may lack validity.
  • Depending on your product, the production of low-fi prototypes may not be appropriate for your intended users. For instance, if you are developing a product bound by a number of contextual constraints and/or dispositional constraints (i.e. physical characteristics of your user base, such as users with disabilities) then basic versions that do not reflect the nature, appearance or feel of the finished product may be of scant use; revealing very little of the eventual user experience.
  • Such prototypes often remove control from the user, as they generally have to interact in basic ways or simply inform an evaluator, demonstrate or write a blow-by-blow account of how they would use the finished product.

High-Fidelity Prototyping

Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

High-fidelity prototypes are prototypes that look and operate closer to the finished product. For example, a 3D plastic model with movable parts (allowing users to manipulate and interact with a device in the same manner as the final design) is high-fi in comparison to, say, a wooden block. Likewise, an early version of a software system developed using a design program such as Sketch or Adobe Illustrator is high-fi in comparison to a paper prototype.

Pros of High-Fidelity Prototyping

  • Engaging: the stakeholders can instantly see their vision realised and will be able to judge how well it meets their expectations, wants and needs.
  • User testing involving high-fi prototypes will allow the evaluators to gather information with a high level of validity and applicability. The closer the prototype is to the finished product, the more confidence the design team will have in how people will respond to, interact with and perceive the design.

Cons of High-Fidelity Prototyping

  • They generally take much longer to produce than low-fi prototypes.
  • When testing prototypes, test users are more inclined to focus and comment on superficial characteristics, as opposed to the content (Rogers, Preece, and Sharp, 2011).
  • After devoting hours and hours of time producing an accurate model of how a product will appear and behave, designers are often loathed to make changes.
  • Software prototypes may give test users a false impression of how good the finished article may be.
  • Making changes to prototypes can take a long time, thus delaying the entire project in the process. However, low-fi prototypes can usually be changed within hours, if not minutes, for example when sketching or paper prototyping methods are utilised.

Due to the pros and cons of low-fi and high-fi prototyping, it should be no surprise that low-fi prototyping is the usual option during the early stages of a Design Thinking project, while high-fi prototyping is used during the later stages, when the test questions are more refined.


Finding The Right Prototype Maker For Your Product Free

Author/Copyright holder: Angeline Litvin. Copyright terms and licence: CC0

Guidelines for Prototyping

It is important to remember that prototypes are supposed to be quick and easy tests of design solutions. Here are a few guidelines that will help you in the Prototyping stage:

  • Just start building
    Design Thinking has a bias towards action: that means if you have any uncertainties about what you are trying to achieve, your best bet is to just make something. Creating a prototype will help you to think about your idea in a concrete manner, and potentially allow you to gain insights into ways you can improve your idea.
  • Don’t spend too much time
    Prototyping is all about speed; the longer you spend building your prototype, the more emotionally attached you can get with your idea, thus hampering your ability to objectively judge its merits.
  • Remember what you’re testing for
    All prototypes should have a central testing issue. Do not lose sight of that issue, but at the same time, do not get so bound to it so as to lose sight of other lessons you could learn from.
  • Build with the user in mind
    Test the prototype against your expected user behaviours and user needs. Then, learn from the gaps in expectations and realities, and improve your ideas.

The Take Away

Prototyping can be a quick and effective way of bringing your/your client's ideas to life. A sample of your intended users or evaluators can then be observed and tested, and their opinions can be used in order to make improvements during an iterative design process. Prototyping methods are generally classified under one of two broad categories: low-fi or high-fi. In the former, simple versions are produced, sometimes with whatever materials are available, which can be tested immediately. In contrast, high-fi methods are generally closer to the final product in terms of look, feel, and means of interaction. Whilst hi-fi prototypes can help the design team gain valuable insights into how the product will be received when distributed, production of hi-fi prototypes can be time-consuming and can have the potential to significantly delay a project should changes need to be made. Therefore, designers have a number of different prototyping methods at their disposal, but there are drawbacks associated with both of these broad categories of testing methods and this must be taken into consideration when deciding how best to improve your design within the allotted time frame and budget.

References & Where to Learn More

Course: Design Thinking - The Beginner's Guide:

Bill Buxton, What Sketches (and Prototypes) Are and Are Not: Wizard of Oz Prototyping:

Finding The Right Prototype Maker For Your Product Key

Finding Prototyping: Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013:

Hero Image: Author/Copyright holder: Annie Mole. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY 2.0

Believing you’ve come up with the next greatest invention is all well and good. Yet, don’t expect to get very far with your creative genius unless you’re prepared to make the transition from your mind’s eye to the palm of your hand. The good news is that advances in technology have made prototypes much more accessible for individuals and startups and has helped countless businesses avoid the common reasons for startups to fail.

Why Do You Need a Prototype?

A prototype, or a three-dimensional version of your product, is essential for quite a few reasons. These models can help prove that your concept works and are a necessary tool for product presentations. If you are trying to license your product, you will have little chance of doing so without a quality prototype. Finally, even if you are looking to manufacture, these models are necessary to properly set up the process and to make further modifications to the design.

Designing Product Protoypes

When you are designing products, and consequently their prototypes, think about how the product will work. One of the most popular business quotes of all time came from Steve Jobs when he imparted the knowledge that, “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” Label printing should not be as important as the ways in which the customer interacts with the product. Heed Steve Jobs’ advice. Keep the way your product works in focus during the product design process.

Product Design Represents Your Company

Why do you need a prototype? Yes, the practical reasoning above is true. But really, a prototype for your product design is so crucial because you want to be able to see a physical representation. Why? Because this will help you to ensure that the design of the product you created will accurately represent your company brand. Colors, shapes, materials, these are all things that you and other social entrepreneurs can use to effectively convey your business brand. Remember the importance of conveying your brand image into your product design by making sure to create a prototype.

Different Types of Prototypes

Finding The Right Prototype Maker For Your Product List

As you move forward with creating the first real model of your idea, you’ll want to decide which type of prototype best suits your needs. If you have not learned this in any online business certificate programs, here are the different types and their uses:

  • Visual Model – This type of prototype is a visual representation only of the product. The design will depict the intended shape and dimensions, but there will be no working parts. Also, the materials used in the model will likely not be the same as in the final product. Use this model when you have a very strong product concept and are good at sales.
  • Representational Model – Also known as a “proof-of-concept prototype”, this model will demonstrate the functionality of your product but may not appear as the final product will. It will likely be assembled with some off-the-shelf parts. This model is often chosen when a working model isn’t practical due to design or cost constraints.
  • Pre-Production Model – Also known as a “presentation prototype,” this model is a working model of how your product will look and function. There may be some off-the-shelf parts, but this is the best option to prove overall product viability and is the most commonly used to begin to Agile planning process.

How 3D Printing Has Changed Prototyping


The entire prototyping process has been revolutionized in recent years with the advent of 3D printing. Now known as Rapid Prototyping, 3D printers are being used to turn designs into 3D objects in a matter of minutes. These machines create models of various materials through what is known as additive manufacturing (AM), using both advanced CAD software and some pretty simple Apps. Now, you can create that Visual Model and, depending on its complexity, a final product at an affordable price and in a very short period of time. Here are few examples of inventors who have done just that:

  • Josh Camitta of Florida invented a combination handheld herbal processor and weighing unit called “The Grale”. Although his device was patented, he was stuck at the next phase until he met a 3D printing expert who helped him make a prototype of his product.
  • Sally Dunne of California came up with an idea for a decorative bicycle clip, which she named “Pedal Petals”, and used 3D printing technology to produce a prototype in just one day. Not only that – within 24 hours she had her first sale!

There is little doubt that prototypes are needed to demonstrate the features and benefits of new product ideas. The kind of prototype you will require depends on your particular product and its complexity. 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, has made the creation of prototypes and even the acceleration of product development much more affordable for today’s inventor and entrepreneur.

Finding The Right Prototype Maker For Your Product Name

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