Prototyping Jonathan Poland

A prototype is a preliminary version of something that is used to test and refine an idea, design, process, technology, product, service, or creative work. It serves as a tool for gathering requirements, developing and planning strategies, and evaluating the feasibility of a concept. Prototypes are often used to explore and validate the potential of a new idea or to identify areas for improvement before committing to a full-scale implementation. The following are common types of prototype.

Architectural Animation
A movie that walks through the proposed 3D space of a building or structure.

Concept Art
Illustrations that capture an aspect of design such as an idea, layout, form, aesthetic, architecture or sequence.

A short, unpolished version of a work such as a song, film, visual design, game or business application.

Evolutionary Prototype
A prototype that is extended over a considerable period of time that represents a future version of something. For example, a concept car that is developed as a potential future production model.

Form Study
An object or animation that explores size, shape, form and appearance.

Functional Prototype
A prototype that is close to the end result in functionality. For example, a user interface that works with test data but isn’t properly developed as an well designed and integrated system.

Horizontal Prototype
A prototype that shows a complete user interface without the ability to drill down.

Low Fidelity
A prototype that is less detailed or lower quality than the intended end result.

Minimum Viable Product
A product that’s complete enough to put in front of customers as tool of market research or as a beta release.

A broad category of prototype that looks like the finished product but is completely lacking functionality. For example, a webpage depicted as an image or a car without an engine for use in wind tunnel testing.

Paper Prototype
Illustrations and primitive cardboard models of design ideas.

Proof Of Concept
An implementation of a method or design to prove that it can work.

Proof Of Principle
A test of a foundational idea.

Rapid Prototyping
Techniques such as 3D printing that produce a physical object from a computer aided design.

Scale Model
A smaller, typically non-functional, model. Commonly used for large things such as buildings, automobiles or aircraft.

Software visualizations of physical things.

Sports Prototype
An advanced automobile that is only used for racing. Often used as a prototype for advanced technologies that may be used in future production models.

Static Prototype
A prototype that appears to be functional but is in fact hardcoded. For example, software that fakes its data as opposed to integrating with data repositories.

A series of graphics that visualize a sequence such as a user interaction or a scene in a film.

Throwaway Prototype
A low cost prototype that is quickly developed with limited quality and functionality. Essentially the opposite of an evolutionary prototype that represents a state of the art design.

Vertical Prototype
A user interface mockup with drill down capabilities.

An illustration of a skeletal framework that serves as a blueprint for a design.

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