Thursday, 26 January 2012

Why its important to prototype

Some early prototypes are purely aesthetic. I made one for my final year project
When we have ideas down on paper, they are in essence theoretical. But theories cant be proven or debunked without them being tested out in practice. No amount of theory can ever say for certain if it will work in practice because no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to consider all possible factors.

External factors can range from a large number of things. In architecture, they are more likely to be based on environmental factors, such as ground movements, temperature wind and rain. Products are going to be more focused on external factors in the form of a human and how they interact with it (people are probably harder to predict than the weather).

Secondly, when designing products or electronic circuits, there can be a lot of guess work involved; certain parameters just cant be fully defined until you know how the whole system is going to react. It is there for imperative to test the system.

In fact, if anything man-made breaks or goes wrong it is always because the factor that caused it was not foreseen by the designer, or they failed to act upon it. If you try to open a beer can and the ring pull breaks off, its because that certain manufacturing defect was not taken into account. If you stand on a chair to fit a lightbulb and you put your leg through the seat, its because it was not designed to take that much force in such an isolated area. Or if your computer freezes while your working, its because the particular sequence of executed code that caused the error was not properly written inorder to avoid it.

But thats OK. Nothing can be made indestructible or made to suit everyone in every situation. Sure, companies try to do it, but even the mighty Apple are not immune to major product faults. Every product developer reaches the point where they have to stop developing and release it into the world, onto shelves and open to the scrutiny of the increasingly fickle consumer.

In electronics, some blue foam and Pritt Stick can
make the best tests
In many ways thats what makes the difference between a good product and a bad one; how much time, money and effort they put into development before its released. The majority of this time and money will be spent on 10's, maybe even hundreds of prototypes; each made, tested, evaluated and then superseded by the next, and then the next, and the next...

Even after a product is released, changes might be made in the design when products keep getting returned with common faults. Thats why its often useful for companies to have a warranty on their products, so that if there is a recurring fault, it gets logged and the product returned for the problem to be diagnosed and fixed.

The thing is, if you design something you can never fully understand it until its real. There are so many factors that cant be foreseen, so many things that can go wrong. Whether it's a good design or bad design, its not even a full design unless its been made.

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