How long do you think it takes a new product to reach the market? While knowledge of a particular new item or improvements to an existing one frequently garners media attention – and thus public awareness – with a press release, actual conceptualization and development begin months, if not years, before.
Even before a physical model gets created, researchers and developers – part of an overall product development team that additionally includes engineers and marketing and advertising professionals – look for a need, realized or not considered, in a market: customer feedback, focus groups, interviews, and input from marketing professionals all contribute to brainstorming ideas for potential products.
But after a product is theoretically drawn up, down to its specifications, then what? From here, a preliminary model becomes the basis for the first prototype.
Product Design Prototyping forms the extensive stage between brainstorming and mass manufacturing in product design. While the process has never been uniform, varying with industry and strategy, prototypes in product design fall into the following types:
Proof of Principle:
Functionality over appearance is the characteristic of this particular prototype. The visual semblance is practically nonexistent, although its functionality is tested for the final design.
For this prototype, the final look and feel is very close to a near match; however, the appearance and functionality aren’t used for analysis. Instead, both qualities eventually influence the product’s final form.
The ongoing research involved in product design looks at how users interact and react to the product, and for this purpose, this prototype’s close-to-final-as-possible form assists with research.
Although functionality isn’t taken into consideration with this prototype, its design and aesthetics, including the color, surface, and texture, are extremely close to the final product.
With the closest semblance to the product that is eventually manufactured, this prototype has all aesthetic, functional, and material elements in place. In some instances, however, the size itself may be smaller.
The prototyping phases in product design are iterative; that is, the process continues looping back on itself until a model satisfies all individuals involved, from the engineers to the marketers to the end users. During the process, several materials create prototypes, from paper sketches and breadboard in early stages to software as the design becomes more advanced to the agreed-upon materials with the functional, or working, prototype. With every prototype, users evaluate the design, from its functionality to appearance, and researchers and developers incorporate these suggestions into more revisions.