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Prototyping for Designers by Kathryn McElroy

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[ Foreword ]

Truth be told, I was completely predisposed to love this book. I don’t know anyone who has a more stalwart belief in the value of the prototype than I do (well, I guess it would be Kathryn McElroy at this point!), and I’ve lived that devotion in both my professional design practice and in my life as an educator.

Many years ago, I was part of a boutique design consultancy in Norwalk, Connecticut, engaged to imagine “the next toothbrush” for a leading toothbrush manufacturer. We were happy to get the job, but it was clear that other, larger firms were similarly engaged in a kind of “Phase 1” exploration; the company was hedging their bet—not a terrible strategy, and pretty common. Instead of having a lot of “brainstorming meetings” and talking about where we might “innovate the next mouth care experience,” each of the designers on our team got into the model shop. Back then, we didn’t have digital fabrication tools, so everything we created was cut on band saws and table saws, spun on lathes, glued and pinned and lashed together with jerry-rigged joints and fasteners, and of course, constructed by hand. We used plastic, wood, metal, cannibalized bristles from other brushes—weird mesh materials and woven fabric samples—really, anything we could get our hands on and be creative with. And we built toothbrushes. Lots of them.

We had only a couple of weeks before the first review with the client, and when they walked into the office they were startled to find something ...

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