Content Series: Prototyping

Last time on the content series, we gave you a breakdown on ethnographic research tools, their benefits as well as the pitfalls they entail. During this session, we had a presentation by Alexis Yeboah, a first year student majoring in Business Administration, on prototyping. Young Alexis spoke about prototyping as the manufacture of a scaled down version of the product that a company wishes to usher to the public. He broke prototyping into 3 basic stages: Create it, Act it out and Portray it.

With creating the prototype, there is absolutely no problem in procuring the items needed to make it, seeing as they come at cheap prices. From what we observed in the presentation, a prototype of a backpack was made with cardboard paper which can be bought for less than 3 cedis in Ghana. The model of such a product can be useful in envisioning the final look of the product in question.

Role play is also a very essential step in prototyping. With this, members of a team or an organization can put themselves in the shoes of would-be customers, to see if their product has a shot of making it to the mainstream market. Here, in Ashesi, most students have gone through this process as groups in their Foundations Of Design and Entrepreneurship Classes. It has really helped them through the second part of the course which involves bringing their business to life.

Finally, there is the portrayal of the prototype. This is also referred to as the construction of a wireframe. A wireframe is an illustration showing basic elements of a product. As seen in various forms of media, business tycoons with ideas for facilities such as shopping malls or sports centers usually display wireframes based on them. It certainly aids customers in understanding just how the product functions. Alexis educated us more on prototypes by explaining the categories they come in. There are the low fidelity prototypes and the high-fidelity prototypes. With the low fidelity prototypes, there are minimal details to a product and they are far from their final forms. It aids more in visualizing the product than in functioning properly. But with high fidelity prototypes, we are able to see those details and they are more closer to the finished version of the product. An analogy from Alexis was based on movie trailers. Low fidelity prototypes are comparable to teaser trailers which are less than a minute, meaning less detailed and focuses on flashy scenes from the movie that would premiere in cinemas. But theatrical trailers best describe the high fidelity prototypes, because they give a little more in details than a mere teaser would.

Some benefits of a prototype include the fact that it gives customers power. Prototypes do come to life with aspects such as size or shape, in respect to the trends most customers are into. Clothing could be an example. Customers could be into specific styles of clothing which would get business owners to whip up a prototype based on that detail, to sum it up, customers’ preferences control the outcome of a prototype. Prototyping also allows you to sell your business. Prototypes serve as validation for a business’s hopes of thriving. If a scaled down version of a product is liked by a massive number of people, it certainly means that the business would soar. Feedback is also achieved. Would-be customers provide feedback based on the testing of a prototype. It is at times encouraging and at times it is not. Negative feedback is not necessarily “negative”. It is a chance or opportunity to improve upon the prototype to ensure its chances of acceptability. That is all for now on the Ashesi Design Lab Content Series, but do not blink, there is more excitement coming your way.

Story By Jude Ansah

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