How Should We Prototype? Establishing the Affordances of Prototyping Media and Approaches

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Snider, Chris (1); Goudswaard, Mark (1); Ranscombe, Charlie (2); Hao, Chaunpeng (1); Gopsill, James (1); Hicks, Ben (1)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: University of Bristol, UK; 2: Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 2125-2134
DOI number:


The breadth of media and approaches used when prototyping are vast, with each holding inherent properties that vary their suitability for a given prototyping activity.

While several have established classifications of types and purposes of prototypes, there is little by way of guidance for designers on how select and strategise prototyping given their activity needs, or how the prototype chosen may influence their process, success or efficiency.

This paper presents nine affordances of prototypes derived from literature, together characterising the properties of prototyping media or approaches that affect their suitability across prototyping activities.

The affordances are illustrated through application to physical and digital classes of prototypes and four real prototype cases, showing descriptive capability, inherent differences between the media, and enabling direct and consistent comparison.

By mapping affordances across many media and approaches, this work enables better method selection to align with activity needs, better description and comparison of media and approaches, and the ability the broadly interrogate and direct future development of prototyping technologies.

Keywords: Prototyping, Design process, Design methods, Early design phases

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