Experience Prototyping

Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri’s 2000 paper on Experience Prototyping at IDEO is the newest addition to my service design research collection. Their paper was one of the first to popularize the concept of bodystorming, an improvisational technique developed at Interval Research in the early nineties for brainstorming design problems “in the wild.”

In bodystorming—brainstorming that occurs either during or between scenes in response to problems that are uncovered—many ideas are expressed verbally but some are expressed physically and come spontaneously through interaction with proposed design elements, or quickly improvised stand-ins.

The examples they outline (a passenger train compartment and an airplane cabin) along with Interval’s initial use of the technique in a hair salon suggest that bodystorming is particularly suited for services with a strong environmental component.

Buchenau and Suri also share several kinds of experience prototypes that go in more traditional directions. From familiar foam-core mockups to Macromedia Director (this was 2000 after all), their point is that “an Experience Prototype is any kind of representation, in any medium, that is designed to understand, explore or communicate what it might be like to engage with the product, space or system we are designing.”

Experience Prototyping is less a set of techniques, than it is an attitude, allowing the designer to think of the design problem in terms of designing an integrated experience, rather than one or more specific artifacts.

The paper uses examples from snowboarding, cardiac telemetry, television surfing, photo sharing, a marine ROV, a passenger train, an airplane cabin and a long distance kiss communicator to demonstrate the value of experience prototypes for understanding existing experiences, exploring design ideas and in communicating design concepts.

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