The reading this week discussing prototyping as a way for user testing and concept validation. But there are other reasons for prototyping.
“Design takes place in the world of imagination, where one invents and manipulates ideas and concepts instead of the real thing – in order to prepare the real intervention. They work with models as means of vicarious perception and manipulation.” – Horst Rittel
As the quote above mentions, designers work with concepts and ideas. From my design experience its impossible to think up a great design and all of the details in your mind. Because designs are too complex, there are too many details and consideration to keep it all in your head.
Therefore prototyping is essential for the designer to work with these ideas and concepts. An idea is fuzzy and abstract, prototyping makes it more concrete. A prototype can be anything that helps facility understanding. It can be a paper sketch, or a physical model, or a wireframe, or interactive prototype. These are all helpful for the designer to understand and explore ideas. Once the idea has manifested in some prototype it makes the idea easier to understand, and raises many new questions.
Whats most important for prototyping is knowing the purpose behind it. What questions are you trying to answer? Knowing the answer to this question will tell you what type of prototype you should build, and prevent you wasting time and money.
A good designer can build a prototype in the simplest, fastest, cheapest way that can answer the question that needs to be answered.