Product Prototyping

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semanticsdesignelectronics, and software programming. A prototype is generally used to evaluate a new design to enhance precision by system analysts and users. Prototyping serves to provide specifications for a real, working system rather than a theoretical one. In some design workflow models, creating a prototype (a process sometimes called materialization) is the step between the formalization and the evaluation of an idea.

Basic Prototype Categories

Prototypes explore different aspects of an intended design:

  • Proof-of-Principle Prototype serves to verify some key functional aspects of the intended design but usually does not have all the functionality of the final product.

  • Working Prototype represents all or nearly all of the functionality of the final product.

  • Visual Prototype represents the size and appearance, but not the functionality, of the intended design. A Form Study Prototype is a preliminary type of visual prototype in which the geometric features of a design are emphasized, with less concern for colour, texture, or other aspects of the final appearance.

  • User Experience Prototype represents enough of the appearance and function of the product that it can be used for user research.

  • Functional Prototype captures both function and appearance of the intended design, though it may be created with different techniques and even different scale from final design.