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How to Create a Product Prototype

Instructor: Brianna Whiting
In this lesson we will learn about creative ideas that develop into a finished product known as a prototype. We will specifically look at the step-by-step process one might take to make a product prototype.

A First Look at Product Prototypes

Meet Ellen! Ellen has always been really creative. She loves decorating her house, doing crafty projects, and teaching painting classes. About a week ago, Ellen was out running errands when she noticed that she forgot her lip gloss. She realized that she never seems to remember to bring it with her and wondered if there was a way to somehow attach it to her so that she would never forget it.

She came up with an idea to create a belt with special compartments that could hold things like lip gloss. She immediately went home and began to make a new belt that was both attractive and functional. In this lesson we will learn what it takes to create a product prototype that someone like Ellen envisions.

Prototype Defined

A prototype is an example of a project or product that allows people to understand its components, size, function, and many more characteristics. It is basically a work in progress that allows you to update and better your product as new ideas come to you. It is also what you will bring with you to market your product and find buyers or investors.

The Steps

How do you get from an idea to a product you can hold? Let's walk through some important steps to consider in the process of creating a product prototype.

1. Ask important questions - Before you can actually develop a physical product, you need to know the answer to some important questions about what you hope the finished project will look like. For example, Ellen probably asked herself, what color will size and color will the belt be? What will it be made out of? How many compartments will it have? Can this project actually be done?

Keep in mind that this is also the time to consider the competition. Ellen should research available utility belts out on the market. Is there another product like hers? If so, how will her product be different?

2. Experiment - Once you know what you envision the product to look like, you can start to experiment. This means looking for materials to use. The possibilities are endless as you have access to household items, items from nature, items that can be bought at a store, and much more. By testing a variety of different materials, you will be able to find the one that works best for your product.

Maybe when Ellen began the experimental step, she grabbed a variety of items to store in a belt and then looked for containers big enough to hold them so that they might be incorporated into the belt.

3. Consider a professional - Often times the product you are creating is simply too difficult to finish on your own. Maybe it needs a part you cannot make yourself or a technology that you know very little about. At that time, you would need to seek advice and help from a professional. For example, Ellen might have contacted a professional designer, to help draw up some sketches.

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