Reflecting about Creative Collaborative Prototyping

There can be no design activity without representations.
— Goldschmidt & Porter

Through this quote from Goldschmidt & Porter, Camille(1) starts the chapter about ‘Representations, Prototyping and Sketching’ by pointing out how communication is the key element on the design activity. He is not the only one to mention how the representation of ideas, in its different levels of expressiveness, is useful on the designer role. Buchenau & Suri(2) on “Experience Prototyping” explain why a prototype can’t only mean a detached object from its context.

But the mentioned Experience includes external influences that are almost impossible to a designer to perceive, capture and apply to its process. Moussette’s differentiation from sketch to prototype (one being more individual than the other) made me reflect on how we currently guide our creative practices. Is it Collaborative Prototyping possible? Can we generate ideas by creating without a clear goal?

After a week of doing several physical and electronic sketches without any clear goal but curiosity, I’ve felt more inspired to try more ambitious ideas. Sometimes not even using the tools I’ve interacted with, but the emotions they triggered. The idea of prototyping as a one-way road, from the designer to “others”, made me wonder if the inverse couldn’t be possible. Perhaps Participatory Design methods will evolve in the future to include more ways of representing goals, problems and questions through prototypes. On a past project, I could see how prototyping and experiencing a group’s view can help to understand other groups in society. That’s why I believe that being inspired by prototypes created by people outside of the designer role can be a great tool to research. To understand how people solve their problems can also tell a lot about their relations with society, themselves and even technology.

1. Moussette, C. (2012). Simple Haptics: Sketching Perspectives for the Design of Haptic Interactions. Dissertation: Umeå University, 2012. Umeå, Sweden. ISBN 9789174594843.

2. Buchenau, M., & Suri, J. F. (2000). Experience prototyping. Proceedings of the conference on Designing interactive systems processes, practices, methods, and techniques - DIS ’00, 424–433. doi:10.1145/347642.347802