Prototyping 101 – or create your MVP in half an hour.

Enrichment week came faster than we expected and the often-mentioned rapid prototyping was upon us.

Excitement mixed with anxiety was filling up my days. I’ve never been a very good “maker”. I understood what we were talking about in design thinking sessions about putting ideas into something physical, so we could see, touch and feel, and then move on and improve.

However, I’ve never just made things, roughly, to see what they do, what they look like. In my job, when I had to make props, costumes or anything physical, it was never rough; it was never just to see. It was always well researched, calculated, observed and the making process was really precise and detailed. Plus I was never very “crafty”, which in my mind was a skill absolutely vital for prototyping.

Well, not quite, my dear past self.

As it turns out, prototyping really is about quickly creating a physical form for your idea. It can be rough and IT CAN BE UGLY!

Our first session with guys from Unlimited Lab was amazing, but very stressful. Majority of the session was spent explaining what they did (really cool stuff, check them out!) in combination with explaining what rapid prototyping is, how the process works, what’s a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and all these beautiful jazzy things. All of it sounded glorious, easy peasy. – Nope.

Our task as employers of Unlimited Lab (for that week) was to, based on the given assumptions, come up with a new MVP. To do this, we had all in all about 30 minutes.

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-13-31-46

These assumptions gave us some framework as a starting point for our MVP.

We combined the assumptions and created an idea revolving around old and broken cables that could be, with the help of our added devices or connectors, reused as a washing line.

This final idea was preceded by many other ideas, starting with a self-raising kitchen stool made out of cardboard, moving on to a newspaper stand made out of old cables (this was the point where the cables appeared, and we liked them), to a washing airer, with old cables (obviously). We decided to KISS (keep it simple stupid) and simplify it into the washing line.

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Once we had the idea, we had to focus on the features of our product. The cables had to connect and we also had to tackle the issue of how we were going to fit the whole thing to the wall – with the weight of wet clothes. Our goal was to come up with a solution, where drilling wouldn’t be necessary, but we knew that adhesives weren’t a good way to go (because they simply don’t work).

However, like I mentioned earlier, we only had 30 minutes to produce our MVP canvas, so all of these features were to be explored on day 2 of our Unlimited Lab employment, during   our hands-on prototyping session at Fablab London.

Learning outcomes from our first day:

  • Prototyping is vital when forming an idea – you really need to see how things react in the real world, theory never fully works.
  • Assumptions are good! – in my theatre job and my previous university course I was taught to never assume anything, because you need to have certainty. However, here assumptions are helpful when forming your idea and making your prototype – and vice versa, your prototype tests your assumptions so you can quickly and efficiently see whether your assumptions were right.
  • Constrains are your best friend! – Coming up with an idea out of thin air is difficult. But having constrains, limits that you have to work within narrows down your “options” and helps you create a specific idea. In a way it’s a paradox, because the less space you have, the more creative you become. This also relates to time constrains (I’ve already mentioned the 30 minutes).

Overall, this day left me less anxious and more excited about the hands-on session. The reassurance that prototypes are not about being pretty and perfect helped me look forward to the session, despite my lack of skill and “craftsmanship”.

To see the results of that session and read about our process, go here, and please, don’t judge. It may be ugly, but it’s ours 🙂

M.

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