You know a joke has bombed when you end up trying to explain why it’s funny. As the saying goes: explaining is losing.
It’s no different with design.
As designers, being able to explain our ideas is important. But all too often, when going to battle for our design, we’re missing an opportunity to let our ideas speak for themselves.
It’s tempting to speak on behalf of our designs, and often it’s expected of us. Writing stories, adding annotations, pitching, presenting, arguing, defending and mopping up uncertainty. But at what point should we see if they can stand on their own two feet?
Put your ideas to the test
One of the best ways to communicate ideas is to show them. And one of the best ways for others to evaluate them is to experience them by getting hands-on.
For this, it’s hard to beat a prototype. Prototypes give our users and stakeholders the chance to experience design solutions, not simply imagine them. They minimize, and sometimes even eliminate, the need to explain what and how.
Design’s power is in showing us the future before we create it. Prototyping turns that into a superpower. Prototyping helps us test our solutions and build confidence faster.
There’s a saying “A prototype is worth a thousand meetings”. If you’ve ever made a prototype and used it to test a complex idea, you’ll understand just how true that saying really is. Instead of going around in circles trying to achieve a shared understanding of an idea, a prototype provides instant clarity.
Test as you explore
When building a prototype we have to get hands-on with our designs, instead of looking at them from a distance. This process and perspective reveals new, better ideas and uncovers weaknesses in our solutions we might not have been able to see before. The physical act of creating prototypes forces us to confront aspects of the design that are critical, but otherwise invisible.
How confident are you?
Choosing when to stop researching, exploring and discussing, and when to start testing will depend on your team and the project. When you detect that you’re shifting from exploring ideas to explaining them, it’s time to prototype and test.