The Value of Prototyping

Whether constructing a 1:1 test build or making something out of blue-tac and boxboard, mocking-up ideas in a physical way is integral to the creative process. It creates a testing ground which enables designers to experiment, play, fail and refine concepts to strengthen the experience of the outcome. Prototyping is valuable when communicating ideas to our clients. By presenting a tangible object, they gain a spatial and physical understanding of the concept, it enables all the senses.

Pool noodle pixel signage, perspective art supergraphics, contoured boardroom table

A personal hero of mine, Paula Scher recently spoke at Semi Permanent about her work in the dynamic environment of dimensional graphic design. She said, “…if you work in the public realm, you have to engage the public, ask them what they want”, which resonated with me on many levels — obtaining user insights and feedback through testing provides invaluable information used to make important decisions. We can apply this thinking to the prototyping process; Test, Learn, Adapt. As human beings, we can achieve so much more by simply talking and listening to each other.

At Neonormal, I’m grateful to design with a team that embraces this way of working. Recently, we created an entrance portal for the Australian Open, that immersed and transported Tennis Australia’s VIP guests into a luxurious, exclusive environment. The concept was born through prototyping — we created a corner of a cube out of mirrored acrylic and LED strips to test whether we could create an infinity tunnel at human-scale, to see if the effect we were imagining could be replicated in real life. After a few attempts and rounds of feedback from the team, we were confident we could present to the client an idea which would truly immerse people inside a multi-sensory journey.

Onsite with Tony from TGC prototyping the ‘O’ tunnel

The purpose of prototyping is to make an idea just tangible enough to elicit a response, whether from a colleague, director, client, or whomever you’re designing for. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, time-consuming process.

Nissan recently engaged us to demonstrate its Intelligent Mobility technology in a pop-up retail environment. The challenge for us was how could we demonstrate this technology in a physical, pop-up retail environment without the use of a screen to display video or motion graphics? Our creative response involved a freestanding, edge-lit, etched acrylic blade display, that required the information to glow white out of translucent red acrylic. We also needed to consider minimising information visibility on the reverse side, as well as ensuring legibility in brightly lit retail environments. Prototyping this signage element was a must, as even finding a visual reference for what we had imagined was nearly impossible. We started by simply scratching an acrylic sample and holding an iPhone light to the edge to test if we should investigate this concept further. From there, the team and our trusted fabricators and collaborators set about achieving our desired outcome, testing lighting, etching – laser or router, shallow or deep, acrylic colours, printing, vinyl, film, gels, all of which culminated into a final working prototype to present back to the client. The outcome produced an amazing result and our client agreed.

Testing all the variables and materials to create the best outcome for Nissan

In effect, we would not have been confident in presenting our solution without going through a Test, Learn & Adapt process. By prototyping, we are enabled to see, touch, question and refine concepts before we bring them to life, ultimately delivering an effective and rewarding brand experience.

View these and more recent projects in a finished state here

Emma Holder – Associate Creative
By Emma Holder

Posted February 26, 2019

Emma is an Associate Creative at Neonormal. She is passionate about the collaborative process, designing for the physical environment, and blending logic with playfulness in everything she makes. She also runs a delicious side hustle, baking fresh goods over at Good Crumb.