The Power of Pretotyping

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Pretotyping, I promise I’m not making things up, or at least I don’t think I am… Where a prototype is anything that you create to communicate your idea to a potential customer to obtain feedback so you may iterate and improve. Use whatever medium you deem most effective to communicating the concept, whether that medium is physical, digital, drawn, photo-collage, or interpretive dance doesn’t matter – What matter’s is you receive feedback on the idea!

A pretotype is similar, but the customer you want feedback from is you! And/or your team, but its essentially anyone inside the core concept development circle to quickly generate and apply feedback for rapid iteration. No sense in taking your customer a potential product only to receive feedback you and the team already knew.

Pretotyping provides the below essential values,

  • Very rapid idea iteration cycles and improvement integration
  • Quickly see what works and what obviously doesn’t…
  • Most effectively utilize your potential customer’s time
  • Much cheaper – just like a prototype is cheaper than the real thing, a pretotype is less costly than a prototype (Both time and cash)
  • Great team building activity – move out of the theoretical space and actually build something.
  • Helpful to bring forward the most valuable and pragmatic concepts first

Story Time!

Setting the Stage

For this example, we’ve already completed the How Might We… form of redefining the problem, a bit of Voice of the Customer (VOC) analysis to better understand what key factors the customer seeks in this solution, and we’ve launch a Crazy 8’s Brainstorming Exercise! (If you haven’t seen those tools yet, be sure to check them out!)

Our task for this challenge is “People need to be able to use glassware without fear of condensation and it’s buildup on a surface or their hands.” Current existing Solutions include Koozies, napkins, coasters etc. From empathy research, interviewing potential customers, we generated a slew of How Might We statements re-framing this problem in terms of what our customer cares about.

We’ve also completed Crazy 8’s to quickly generate potential solutions addressing the defined How Might We… statements. The next step after Crazy 8’s is to examine your ridiculous ideas and see if there is anything of value…

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When determining the value of an idea, think NRF: Novel, Realistic, Feasible.

  • Novel: Does this solution currently exist to solve THIS problem? It may be necessary to examine the current state of the art through benchmarking and reading any generated intellectual property.
  • Realistic: If the idea is successful and could work, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, would it actually address the problem?
  • Feasible: Could the idea work? Examine current technology and identify any gaps to determine if given the constraints and worldly resources – could this work.

A fun analogy utilizing the NRF technique is using superhero powers to cool an engine.

  • Novel: is anyone else using superhero powers to cool an engine? Very doubtful.
  • Realistic: Based on our current knowledge of the problem and solution, lets assume this works, could superhero powers cool an engine? Sure!
  • Feasible: Can we actually use superhero powers? Um… I don’t think so.

Now Time to Pretotype!

Based on the outstanding ideas generated in Crazy 8’s, we’ve down-selected/combined to three concepts to be pretotyped! The Can Handle, Reverse Koozie, and the Permanent Band. See the feedback we were able to achieve with each pretotype, what materials were utilized, and the simplicity of each model.

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The Can Handle

The Can Handle was quite an interesting idea. The can is supported at the bottom and clamped at the top(imagine it ‘clicking’ in). At the top is attached a handle to hold the drink.

Problems Solved: No condensation on hand, no condensation on surface!

How it was Made: A peanut butter can lid supported the bottom of the lid, the side support and “clamp” were pieces of scrap wood attached with zip ties and hot glue, and the finally the handle is a random piece of plastic I found in the trash

Results: While many of the problem statements were met, the device was rather bulky, and the team found similar products available for free on Thingiverse.com, so this idea is not really novel. We did see potential applications for people who may have difficulties holding cans, so this opened up another opportunity!


Reverse Koozie

The reverse Koozie is essentially a three-finger glove the user wears to hold their drink.

Problems Solved: User does not get a wet hand from condensation, but no measures protecting surfaces.

How it was Made: Took a latex glove, drew an approximated idea of how this might look, and cut it out!

Results: After wearing the device, it was determined this idea is just plain weird… Definitely low cost and highly portable. Due to the weirdness factor, many people humorously responded they would not wear it.


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Permanent Band

This is a band intended to be permanently affixed to the side of a glass. This effectively retrofits virtually any glass into a condensation stopper!

Problems Solved: Condensation on side of glass eliminated and the band significantly reduces condensation on the glass’s side effectively reducing condensation transfer to surfaces.

How it was Made: Measured the circumference of a sample glass(mason jar), cut a peice of paper to the circumference and desired width. Then taped the paper to the glass.

Results: One of the significant findings from the Voice of the Customer exercise was not the lack of products to prevent condensation, as most people have napkins, coasters, and koozies lying around. The challenge was remembering to use the product. By permanently retrofitting glasses, this problem was mitigated.

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So What Was Decided?

In the end, the Permanent Band best meets the customer’s requirements and uniqueness factor.

A prototype of the product was then created using leather and marine grade double sided tape. After initial Prototyping, we tested the effectiveness of this new product by filling a cup fill of ice water and leaving them out to measure condensation accumulation.
It worked!

What to See the Full Design Thinking Presentation on This Project?
Download the Presentation PDF Below!

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End

Hopefully, you found this write-up valuable and insightful. The goal of this method is to increase your confidence is creating new ideas and iterating. Just like the weird Reverse Koozie, its OK to fail and a part of innovating! It was also quite fun to be ridiculous. You don’t need any fancy tools or 3D printers to pretotype, just an imagination! (And potentially a bag of trash…)


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