One of the greatest assets in every designer’s diverse toolkit is iterative prototyping. Iterative prototyping is a design methodology of rapid prototyping, testing, analyzing and refining a product till the required degree of satisfaction, functionality and safety are reached. It is fascinating how typically many benefits of the iterative and rapid prototyping technique often weren’t planned or intended in the first place.
As expected, much of the value and success of this method comes from getting continuous and repeated feedback from potential end users during the design process, but the hidden, and in my opinion greater, value comes from the extraordinary experience for the designer’s client, whether external to the design firm or an internal client from another department in a corporate company.
Every designer knows that the biggest challenges they face stem from the struggle to convince their clients about the feasibility of their designs. Clients are nervous about adopting new ideas and the more radical and bold the designs are, the more reluctant the clients get. There is a point where designers hit a “prove-it” wall and as hard as they try, looming investment and business risks won’t let them convince the client unless they provide real world analysis and data to back up their claims.
The near zero lead time of 3D printing when used as a rapid prototyping method, enables the designer to iteratively create new prototypes and send them to the end user to get direct feedback. Each iteration creates small amounts of data that the designer can send to the client to prove his concept and back up his idea. Ideally, the designer will incorporate the user’s feedback in the next iteration and will once again send the user’s new input to the client. This cycle of designing, rapid prototyping, testing and getting feedback will continue till the end user is fully happy with the product and the design goals are reached. The client, on the other hand, while seeing the feedback improve as the end user becomes more and more pleased, can’t help becoming more confident about the idea and finally approving the design.
This process enables progressive minded designers to go forward with their ideas and improve them on the go. On the other hand, it provides clients a proof of concept wrapped up in historical data even before the product is even launched. The iterative and short life cycle of this method, made possible through additive manufacturing technology for rapid prototyping, creates feedback data for analysis from the immediate future, represented by the end user that then becomes historical data for the next cycle. This way, the designer, and the client are able to have a glimpse into the future without the waste of time and money that is usually accompanied by such ventures.
Formal design education does not focus on the designer-client relationship, although it has a huge impact on probabilities of the success of a particular design. It rather just concentrates on the designer-end user relationship. But to fulfill a designer’s goal of helping businesses to provide superior experiences to the end user, the education must concentrate a little bit more on how designers communicate with their clients, through whom they will actually reach the end user of their designs.
The structuring of the production life cycle, from design to manufacture, needs to be a triangle of the designer, the end user, and the client. A process with such characteristics of taking into account both the user experience and the client experience, will avoid many frustrations and prevent the later waste of time and money. This essentially helps the overall industry progress forward and advance.
3D printing has brought the rapid prototyping industry a long way since its adoption, but to enable it to shine with its full potential, a new concept must be taught where the whole production life cycle is facilitated through an easy to implement trial and error method. This way, forward thinking designers would once again be celebrated for their revolutionary ideas, clients would avoid risky ventures without sacrificing innovation and the eventual end users would enjoy the benefits.
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