Josiah Martens

Why Rapid Prototyping is an Integral Part of the Design Process

Earlier this year, we hosted a workshop here at Drawn for a group of middle and high school design students participating in Lane Arts Council’s Product of Eugene design apprenticeship program. It was a fun evening consisting of a brief presentation, a tour of our building, and a hands-on workshop.

During the presentation, we discussed the value of rapid prototyping. Creating low-fidelity mockups can be an incredibly helpful development tool, as they allow the designer to interact with a proposed design before spending the many hours required to create the final product. The goal is to get your hands on a version of the design as soon as possible because this allows you to discover shortcomings in your initial concept — and brainstorm solutions. The process of rapid iteration, critique, and re-design continues until the idea is as finely tuned as possible. At this point, it is time to invest the effort and resources required to create higher-resolution prototypes, and then, finally, the end product.

Middle and high school design students touring the Bard. Photo: Trask Bedortha/Drawn

Following the presentation, we took our visitors on a tour of our beloved Bard building, focusing on specific design solutions that we have implemented using the rapid prototyping process. Central to this tour was our trade show booth, which occupies our foyer. The idea started as a sheet of folded paper and evolved via hand-drawn sketches and digital models. Once the design and structural questions were answered, we were able to build the whole project quickly and efficiently.

Finally, we invited the students to create their own low-fidelity prototype. We provided them with tape, craft paper, cardboard, and markers. Early in the process, the prototyping tools can be cheap and simple. In fact, this is optimal. The goal in this process is to conserve time and expensive resources for the final product, rather than squander it early on premature designs.

At the end of the night, these students walked away with early prototypes of their design projects and, we hope, a new understanding of and appreciation for the important role rapid prototyping plays in the design process.