The final stage of using the FAD template is to provide a way to visualize the product by: a drawing, a schematic of the product or service, or a physical model (see several examples in the section called “Appendix 1: Examples of Prototypes”). Learning-by-doing means that you make and build things. You try experiments and you construct prototypes. Prototypes need to be constructed for tangible products, for services, and also for systems applications. If the product is a tangible product, then a generic mock-up of the product needs to be constructed as early as possible. The idea is to develop a very rough prototype of the product or service. There are many different ways to do this. It could be a report developed in a word-processing program, an interface developed in a presentation program, a sketch using a vector or raster-based drawing program or even drawn using a pencil on the back of a napkin, a three-dimensional (3D) model developed in Google’s free Sketch Up program, or a flow diagram illustrating a process. If the product is a computer application, then a prototype can be constructed using a rapid prototyping language or demonstrated via a presentation package such as PowerPoint. There are also many excellent applications available for tablet computers that are very effective for developing mock-ups of applications and for drawing or sketching preliminary product ideas.
Services should also be prototyped. A uniquely designed service can be used as a way to differentiate a firm from the competition. Service design should always focus on the customer and how the customer interacts with the business in receiving the service. These interactions between the customer and the business are referred to as the touch points or connections. There are many components that go into the design of a service. They include the people, the verbal and nonverbal interactions, the processes, the scripts, the tools, the materials, the infrastructure, and the technologies. Execution of the service is a function of how all the service components work together.
One popular tool for designing services is service blueprinting. It is a visual and descriptive tool for modeling visible customer interactions with employees and processes that also illustrates how the hidden processes support the customer interactions. 1 There are a number of tools that can be used to conceptualize, design, and test the design of the service including drawings, sketches, scenario analysis and task structuring, mock-ups, storyboarding, systems, Lego mock-ups, and many more (see http://www.servicedesigntools.org/repository). Because services often involve queues or lines, simulations can be used to understand how fast or how slow a service will be performed in a particular situation.
The goal of the first-cut prototype is to learn-by-doing, to get other people to understand what you are thinking about, and to help you understand what you are trying to do. Developing a prototype in some form or another is an important part of the learning-about and the learning-by-doing process that will facilitate creative insight. 2
Many prototypes start out with paper and pencil and then become increasingly more sophisticated as they mature. The basic sequence of iterative design with stepwise refinement includes the following:
- Initial Prototype: In the early stages, develop a pencil and paper picture of the product, the application, or the process. The key is to focus on the key or essential functions of the product or service.
- Review: Let business stakeholders, family, friends, and eventually potential customers provide feedback on the product or service.
- Revise and redesign prototype: Use the feedback to refine and improve the design of the product or service. Use more advanced tools as the prototype becomes more refined and detailed. This usually leads to the use of graphics, drawing, and mock-up software. Towards the later stages of development, the prototype might be a functioning product or service or an actual application with some level of functionality.
- Go back to step 2 after revising and redesigning the prototype.
There are some very exciting prototyping tools for manufactured products. Although currently in their infancy, they have the potential to completely change the way that products are prototyped and eventually how everything will be manufactured. 3 These new tools are part of a new approach for manufacturing called additive manufacturing or desktop manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is becoming a reality because additive manufacturing assists in producing prototypes very quickly. One of the most promising technologies for implementing additive manufacturing is the 3D printer. Very detailed and complex plastic working models of products can be generated using 3D printers. 4 The parts or products are made by using 3D digital descriptions to print successive thin layers of plastic on top of plastic until a 3D solid emerges. Some of these plastic products and parts can be used as final products and not just as prototypes. There are versions of the 3D printers that use titanium powder to construct very complex objects such as jewelry and avionics components. Several aviation companies are investigating the use of very large 3D printers to create entire aircraft wings.