The nature of prototypes in design
In the last TOCHI issue, there is this paper called The anatomy of prototypes: Prototypes as filters, prototypes as manifestations of design ideas by Lim, Stolterman and Josh Tenenberg which deals with prototypes in HCI and design. They state how the role of prototype is well known but there's a lack of knowledge concerning the "fundamental nature of prototypes". They subsequently try to provide an "anatomy of prototypes as a framework for prototype conceptualization". Some excerpts I found relevant:
"we identify an initial set of design aspects that a prototype might exhibit. We call these aspects ﬁltering dimensions. We use the term ﬁlter, since by selecting aspects of a design idea, the designer focuses on particular regions within an imagined or possible design space. (...) The Principles of Prototyping and the Anatomy of Prototypes
Fundamental prototyping principle: Prototyping is an activity with the purpose of creating a manifestation that, in its simplest form, ﬁlters the qualities in which designers are interested, without distorting the understanding of the whole.
Economic principle of prototyping: The best prototype is one that, in the simplest and the most efﬁcient way, makes the possibilities and limitations of a design idea visible and measurable.
Anatomy of prototypes: Prototypes are ﬁlters that traverse a design space and are manifestations of design ideas that concretize and externalize conceptual ideas."
Also about the quality of a "good" prototype:
"...can only be understood in relation to the speciﬁc purpose of the design process and to the speciﬁc issue that a designer is trying to explore, evaluate, or understand. The purposes for which prototypes are used can be broadly categorized into the following areas: (1) evaluation and testing; (2) the understanding of user experience, needs, and values; (3) idea generation; and (4) communication among designers. These categories are not meant to be mutually exclusive, and any one prototype can be used for multiple purposes."
Why do I blog this? documenting some aspects of design for project discussion with a client in the video game industry. The notion of prototype is intriguing in that field and would benefit a bit from design thinking.