A prototype is an original type, form, or instance of some thing. It serves as a typical example or standard for things of the same category. Some prototypes are used to find defects or to test an idea.
Prototypes are built for different reasons:
- Proof of principle prototype (or model): Shows that something can be done. These kinds of prototypes are built to test a part of the design. These prototypes do not look like the finished product, in most cases. Such prototypes are used to show that certain design choices will work or will not work.
- Form-study prototype (model): This tries to show what the finished design will look like, but without the function. Such prototypes allow to take decisions about the exact shape, size, or ergonomic properties. This lets a designer see if things fit together, and will feel right.
- Visual prototype: These will look like the actual product, and are used for market research. They do not have any of the functionality of the final product. An example is a concept car at a car show. It may look like a new car but may not even have an engine.
- Functional prototype: These will behave and act like the final product as much as possible. For cost reasons, they may be smaller in size, or they may not have the final look of the product.
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