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Prototyping – A Toolkit for Practice

By April 27, 2023May 4th, 2023All, Design6 min read
Published on April 27, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 mins

Prototyping – A Toolkit for Practice

Prototyping is an important stage in bringing any service design to life. It is the process by which designers implement the decided upon ideas into tangible forms to varying degrees of fidelity. These can then be tested amongst service users to provide insight into what works and what doesn’t – generating valuable input to the iterative process of designing an exceptional service.

When to prototype?

Prototyping phase starts after the problem has been identified and ideation phase is complete. Ideation phase creates the needed groundwork that makes the prototyping phase possible. after a sufficient number of generated ideas, the prototyping process can start.

Prototyping Techniques

Prototyping can come in many forms, with each having its unique advantages and disadvantages. Below are some actionable prototyping techniques with an evaluative guide to help weigh up the effectiveness of implementing different strategies.


Storyboarding is a visual technique that illustrates a future scenario of a certain service aspect through drawings or picture and small text descriptions. It simply implies arranging the experience in a series of drawings that depict the various interactions the user has along the journey.

Advantages Disadvantages
Easy service scenario visualization Time consuming
Engaging to all stakeholders May not be detailed enough
Easy to be understood and to be shared

Physical Models

Physical models serve the purpose of bringing a drawing or sketch into the real world through using different materials commonly found in stationary stores (e.g., paper clips, cardboard, styrofoam etc.) to build elements along the journey that the user will physically interact with. The physical model could be an object that is interacted with along the customer journey, or it could act as a prop that helps create a realistic environment of where the service is intended to be offered.

Advantages Disadvantages
Economical to create It might to be too simple to capture the user needs especially when the project is too complex
Engaging to all stakeholders Requires in-person testing
Easy to be understood

Role Playing

It is simply acting out the idea with the use of props for certain scenarios to grasp a better understanding of it. The team may decide to opt for this prototyping technique that allows the service design participants to reenact the various scenarios that can unfold within a physical space, in this case role-playing is the ideal option.

Advantages Disadvantages
It is fun and engaging for the actors and observers Reluctance or timidness from the actors may affect its quality
Allows for firsthand experiences Could be taken too far so it is not a true representation of the potential real-life case
Drives imaginative, creative, and innovative solutions
Gives life to the persona and scenario

Sketches and Diagrams

As one of the simplest forms of prototyping, sketching will most likely be your technique of choice if you are pressed for time. When sketching the objective is to simply transfer the service visualization that lives in your mind, onto a piece of paper that can be shared with the other participants which could draw out the various steps of the service. The service design team can present the solution concept using different diagram methods, including journey mapping, behavior mapping, and system flow diagrams to name a few.

Advantages Disadvantages
Extremely economical to create May not communicate all aspects of the idea clearly
Easy to create as it does not require significant artistic skills May not be easy to be interpret by user testers as it requires significant imagination
Fast to create
Engaging to all stakeholders and fosters discussions

Legos may be a basic children’s toy, but with a little creative application, and resourcefulness, they can be turned into an effective visual tool for reflecting even some of the more complex customer journeys. The unique quality that Legos bring to the table is that they are highly versatile and can be used not only for prototyping objects within the customer journey, but also creating a customer journey for a “Lego man” (representative of the user) to walk through.

Advantages Disadvantages
It is fun and engaging for the actors and observers May not be viable for complex projects or encompass all aspects of the idea
Easy to create prototypes with it
Economical to create prototypes with it
Extremely versatile and facilitates creativity
3D visualization of the prototype

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