All of your favourite products once started out as a humble prototype. The Apple iPhone, your TV, a lamp. All products go through this same production process. At the heart of the process is a long prototyping phase. During this stage, designers and inventors create a working model of their product. It allows them to get a sense of its form and function. If you’re looking to start a business based around a product, this is essential. Does it look and feel right? Does it function correctly? Doing this allows them to avoid any mistakes in the main production. So, how do you go about doing this?

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Early Mac prototype (photo source)

  1. Market research

It all starts with a long period of market research. The more background knowledge you can acquire, the better. Research the existing market and see what competing products are already out there. Does you product already exist? If so, what can you do to separate it from your competitors? What will give it the market edge? Next, look at your target audience. Research their desires and needs. What can you do to your product that better suits them. After all, they’re the ones that will buy it!

  1. Sketches and designs

With a ton of information in your hand, you’re ready to start sketching. These initial drawings will help you visualise the product and plan it out. It will allow you to get a sense of size, proportion, and shape. All of which are essential before you jump into the prototype stage. You’ll probably go through hundreds of reams of paper trying to get it right. And that’s a good thing! Once you’re happy, draw up the final designs on a computer CAD program.

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Early iPhone inspiration? (photo source)

  1. First prototype

Your very first prototype is a simple, rough version just to gauge the size and shape. In fact, many inventors use things lying around the house to create this first prototype. You can make it using bits of cardboard, string, or balled-up socks. All you’re looking for here is the feel and shape of your product. If it’s handheld, does it fit in your pocket? Is it comfortable to hold and use?

  1. Main prototype

If you’re happy with the design, the size, and the shape, it’s time to move on. Now you can create the working, functional prototype. At this point, some developers choose to build their own prototype. However, it’s often more beneficial to outsource it to a production company. They’ll have access to the necessary gun drilling machines and 3D printers. All the things required to create your working prototype. They’ll soon send back your first functional product.

  1. Feedback

With your final prototype in hand, it’s time to start the feedback process. Start by getting together a focus group of your target audience. Let them explore the prototype and play with it. What do they like, what don’t they like? Have you missed any opportunities or are there any gaps in your design? It might mean going back to the drawing board, but this feedback is essential.

With all this complete, you’re ready to embark on the full and final production! It’s an exciting process, but take your time. Good luck!