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What is a Prototype?: Emergent Roles of Prototypes From Empirical Work in Three Diverse Companies

[+] Author Affiliations
Carlye Lauff, Daria Kotys-Schwartz, Mark E. Rentschler

University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Paper No. DETC2017-67173, pp. V007T06A033; 13 pages
  • ASME 2017 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 29th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Cleveland, Ohio, USA, August 6–9, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5821-9
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


This paper explores the nature of prototypes from three diverse companies in the fields of consumer electronics, footwear, and medical devices. It is part of a larger qualitative research study developing a prototyping framework grounded in the emergent findings from practice and detailed inductive inquiry. In this paper, we describe the methods for setting up an appropriate research design, highlighting the conceptual framework, means for data collection and analysis, and validity. Then, we describe the emergent findings, introducing a modified definition of a prototype and the three roles of prototypes.

This research is a contribution to the field of design theory and methodology by adding new knowledge about prototypes from companies. Prototyping is an essential part of product development, and yet it is one of the least formally explored areas of design. The significance of this work lies in its ability to gain insights into the role of prototyping in the natural work environment, which has not been holistically documented. By using diverse industries, we will build and test our framework across them all to ensure validity.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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