The purposes of prototyping

In the argument of design, especially of design thinking, an overarching objective of prototyping is to get feedback and learn from building and implementing a product or service (Rodriguez & Jacoby, 2007; Lande & Leifer, 2009; Jensen et al., 2015).[1] However, prototyping has multiple functions and play different roles in different contexts (Beaudouin-Lafon & Mackay, 2007), and general purposes of prototyping are identified as three ways: exploration, evaluation and communication (Blomkvist & Holmlid, 2011; e.g., Schneider, 1996; Buchenau & Suri, 2000; Smith & Dunckley, 2002; Voss & Zomerdijk, 2007). For this research, however, replace the term, communication with ‘persuasion’ (e.g., Sanders, 2013) as communication is important also for exploration and evaluation. The word, communication is used to emphasise the communication with external stakeholders such as clients. Thus, ‘persuasion’ as Sanders (2013) uses is a less confusing term.Therefore, this research calls the three purposes exploration, evaluation and persuasion respectively. Communication is regarded as a factor underlying the achievement of the purposes. In some literature, the difference of purposes are emphasised in the terminology, piloting and prototyping, as the former mainly works for exploration and the latter for persuasion (e.g., NESTA, 2011).

Beaudouin-Lafon, M. & Mackay, W.E. (2007) Prototyping Tools and Techniques. In: A. Sears & J. A. Jacko eds. The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications. New York, CRC Press, pp.1017–1039.

Blomkvist, J. & Holmlid, S. (2011) Existing Prototyping Perspectives: Considerations for Service Design. In: Nordes. Helsinki, Finland. Available from: <> [Accessed 6 January 2016].

Buchenau, M. & Suri, J.F. (2000) Experience prototyping. In: Proceedings of the 3rd conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques. pp.424–433.

Jensen, M.B., Balters, S. & Steinert, M. (2015) Measuring Prototypes: A Standardized Qantitative Description of prototypes and Their Outcome for Data Collection and Analysis. In: DS 80-2 Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 15) Vol 2: Design Theory and Research Methodology Design Processes,  Milan, Italy, 27-30.07.15.

Lande, M. & Leifer, L. (2009) Prototyping to Learn: Characterizing Engineering Students’ Prototyping Activities and Prototypes. In: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. Available from: [Accessed 28 July 2016].

NESTA (2011) Prototyping in Public Services.

Rodriguez, D. & Jacoby, R. (2007) Embracing Risk to Learn, Grow and Innovate.

Sanders, E.B.-N. (2013) Prototyping for the Design Spaces of the Future. In: L. Valentine ed. Prototype: Design and Craft in the 21st Century. London, Bloomsbury Academic, pp.59–74.

Schneider, K. (1996) Prototypes As Assets, Not Toys: Why and How to Extract Knowledge from Prototypes. In: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Software Engineering. ICSE ’96. Washington, DC, USA, IEEE Computer Society, pp.522–531. Available from: [Accessed 5 May 2016].

Smith, A. & Dunckley, L. (2002) Prototype evaluation and redesign: structuring the design space through contextual techniques. Interacting with Computers, 14 (6), pp.821–843.

Voss, C. & Zomerdijk, L. (2007) Innovation in experiential services: An empirical view. Citeseer.

[1]  Rodriguez and Jacoby (2007) assert that prototyping is “[a] process of accelerating feedback and failure” (p.57).