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Think creatively, prototype to answer a question!

Prototypes do not need to be a final, functional, or visually appealing model, they just have to answer a question about the design (or provide means for a question to be answered). Think about the questions you want answered, and make prototypes to test them!

Will it fit in the hand? Prototype!
Is it comfortable? Prototype!
Is it blue enough? Prototype!
Will I win the lottery? Probably not!

rough electrical prototype
Will it work? Make a test to check crucial parts!

How many prototypes should I make?

Prototypes are great, don't be afraid of making as many prototypes as you can. The more you make, the more questions you can answer, the more 'final' your product will be! There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of prototypes that you should make, it all depends on your individual product and situation... It depends on how many questions you need answered!

Additionally, you can split up your questions - rather than one massive cover-all question such as 'Is it good?', you could split this up into several smaller questions, such as 'Does the outside shape look smooth enough?', 'Does the text font look too harsh?', 'Does it feel comfortable in the hand?', etc..

Question every question - try to think, what is this question asking, what sorts of answers am I expecting, and how would I explain this question to someone else who is not familiar with the product?
CAD prototype
CAD can also be used for ptototyping

How do I make a prototype?

You can make a prototype from pretty much anything - it all depends on what you are testing!

If you want to test the general design of something, you could simply draw it (on paper, or CAD)!
If you need to test the external 2D shape, you could create a cardboard cutout. 
If you need to test the 3D shape, you could use some clay or carved wood. 
If you need to test an electrical part, you could put together some circuitry on a breadboard.

It doesn't have to be final, it doesn't have to be pretty.. 
It can in fact be pretty rough!

cardboard prototype
An example of a rough prototype from cardboard!
It is completely up to you on how you test your idea, and how to you create your prototypes, but as a guide you don't want to spend too much on prototypes - especially early on! Prototypes should be plentiful, and so should not cost too much, otherwise the project budget could be blown out of proportion before you even get it off the ground. Think of how you can test your question as cheap as possible, while still getting an accurate result. This being said - if you need to spend more money on it (being an important question), you may have to!

So get out there and make prototypes! 

Test all questions, and clear the air so that you can be free to create the highest quality product that you possible can.


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