Buchenau and Suri, “Experience Prototyping”

Buchenau and Suri define “Experience Prototyping” as “a form of prototyping that enables design team members, users and clients to gain first-hand appreciation of existing or future conditions through active engagement with prototypes” (p. 1).  The authors “use examples from commercial design projects to illustrate the value of such prototypes in three critical design activities: understanding existing experiences, exploring design ideas and in communicating design concepts” (p. 1).

I think Buchenau and Suri make a good and important distinction in their definition of this concept of experience design: “the quality of people’s experience changes over time as it is influenced by variations in these multiple contextual factors” (p. 1). It sounds obvious, to a certain degree, when you read it, but I think this change-time factor can sometimes get lost when feeling the immediacy of working with an idea in the here and now (and perhaps working against a deadline in trying to bring this idea into reality).

The authors also offer an “operational definition” of the notion of an “Experience Prototype”—“any kind of representation, in any medium, that is designed to understand, explore or communicate what it might be like to engage with the product, space or system we are designing” (p. 2). “Experience Prototyping is less a set of techniques,” they go on to note, “than it is an attitude, allowing the designer to think of the design problem in terms of designing an integrated experience, rather than one or more specific artifacts” (p. 2).

I also liked their observation that “[l]ow-tech solutions seem to promote the attitude that it is the design question that is important, not the tools and techniques that can be brought to bear” (p. 9). I think this idea works well in combination with the notion that finished/polished prototypes can lead an “audience” (clients, higher-ups, etc.) to see it as a nearly finished (and therefore less potentially mutable) product.


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