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A prototype is an unfinished and physical test version of a product, a service or a process and prototypes may be used in order to develop, test and communicate ideas and concepts.
Prototyping has several benefits:

  • Prototyping provides the opportunity of developing and testing ideas in a tangible way.
  • Prototyping makes it easier to unfold and test ideas during the early stages thus saves resources by testing ideas continuously before implementation
  • Prototyping takes an iterative approach to idea development in which the students continually develop and change their ideas concurrently with the testing of prototypes. Prototypes can reveal aspects of the ideas that might not come to mind otherwise or be possible to describe with words.
  • The method is very useful in terms of communication and collaboration within project teams and externally with stakeholders as the physical representation of the idea enables a common framework for understanding what the concept actually entails and the experience of it.


The prerequisite for the exercise is that the students have developed many ideas to solve a problem or a need. The purpose of this exercise is to to investigate the potential of each idea and start off the prototype process by developing many prototypes in a short period of time. It is important that students have materials available and that they understand that aesthetics is not important in this exercise.

Rapid prototyping steps:

  1. Ask the students to develop a number of ideas into prototypes within a short and limited time frame – e.g. 20 prototypes per group in 20 minutes.
  2. The have the students present their prototypes in a plenary session.

It is up to the students to choose a format that best communicates their ideas with the fewest resources possible. In the following you will find suggestions on different types of formats:

  • Selected touchpoints from User Journeys / Service Blueprints
  • Diagrams
  • Spatial model
  • Paper prototype
  • Digital prototype, e.g. prototyping on paper, which can make paper-protoypes digital

Role-play may be used as a supplement in order to simulate interaction with the prototype.

Worth Considering

You might show examples of prototypes in order to visually inspire the students. Make sure the examples are not too perfect as this is not about aesthetics, but rather about visualising ideas and making them tangible.

Prototyping as approach involves continual adjustments and changes as feedback, based on the testing of the prototype, is given. Make sure to discuss how the prototypes are part of a process in which tests and feedback is incorporated. Read more about the planning of a prototype process here.


You may buy foamcore, felt-tip pens, clay, post-its, scissors, tape (gaffe tape for instance), glue, cardboard, string and so on. View an example of a prototyping kit from the course HealthZup 2014 here.


Carlile, P. 1997. ‘A pragmatic view of knowledge and boundaries: Boundary objects in new product development.’

Preece J, et al. 2002 ’Interaction Design – beyond human-computer interaction’. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Brandt, E 2007, ‘How tangible mock-ups support design collaboration’ Know Techn Pol, nr. 20, s. 179-192.

Brown, TIm, ‘Change by Design’, Harper Collins, 2009.

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