Make a Prototyping Station...
Prototyping often means building with whatever’s at hand, so make sure you’ve got your materials ready.
WHY make a prototyping station
- Having prototyping materials at hand lowers the barrier to building. Rather than having to think about where to get materials, when inspiration strikes, your materials are at hand.
- Keeping prototyping materials around signals to others that building is okay. If your materials look playful and low-res, so much the better! It’s hard to put too much pressure on prototypes that are made of post-it notes and pipe cleaners.
- Prototyping materials are a very low-cost way to make your environment more conducive to building. You can buy materials from craft stores, or you can hit surplus stores to get more unusual materials at bargain prices (we love SCRAP and RAFT in the Bay Area). Bonus: surplus materials are a great eco-friendly way to prototype!
HOW TO make a prototyping station
- Prepare your prototyping bins. At the d.school, we’ve made rolling prototyping carts accessible from both sides, with small bins for different types of materials. When we take prototyping materials on the road, we prepare smaller (approximately 2′ x 1′ x 1′) bins with a selection of different materials, then “file” the extra materials back in the big bins when we get back.
- We love our rolling carts, but we’ve seen many different arrangements of prototyping bins that work well for different contexts. Here are some things to keep in mind as you’re designing your prototyping supply station:
- How many people will be using your prototyping materials at once?
- How can you use labels and signs to make it easy for people to accurately put materials back when they’re done?
- Do you want materials to be instantly accessible, or do you want people to have to open a lid or a cupboard?
- What workspaces are near your prototyping materials? Will you need to move your prototyping station around your building, or can it stay in one place?
- It’s fun to gather whatever catches your eye. Do be mindful of what functions different materials can serve. It’s frustrating to have a lot of paper and fabric and nothing to attach it with. Here are some categories we keep in mind, and some examples of materials from each category:
- Closures: Velcro, zip ties, magnets, snaps, masking tape, duct tape (we like colored duct tape when we can find it), scotch tape, glue sticks, paper clips, (again, we like colored paper clips), decorative brads
- Tools: hole punches, scissors, staplers (with staples), hot glue/glue guns, rulers
- Base materials: assorted fabric swatches, plastic sheets or tiles, textured cardstock, multicolored cardstock, assorted felt, assorted foam sheets, post-it notes of different sizes, foil
- Large-scale materials: large sheets of fabric or bedsheets, large rolls of butcher paper
- Costumes for experience/environment prototypes: masks, hats, glasses, shirts
- Accessories: assorted ribbon, stickers (alphabet, numeric, etc.), yarn/string, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, multicolored assorted foam shapes
- Writing implements: Fine point black sharpies, thick color sharpies, washable markers if you’re working with kids
- Avoid (unless you love cleaning up or have very understanding custodial staff): glitter, confetti, tinsel, white glue, fabric paint in squeeze bottles (these take too long to dry to be useful for rapid prototyping), craft knives (the covers tend to get lost in the shuffle), pins and needles (getting pricked in the hand takes the fun out of digging through prototyping materials)