Rethinking Prototypes and Iterative Development

Chris Milne discusses the product development process used by IDEO.

Chris Milne from IDEO gives an amazing TED Talk about building prototypes and proof of concept models for different applications. He spends the bulk of his talk outlining the design process and showcasing the design of the Aerobie football.

The talk begins with a slide showing the different personnel working with Milne on his projects. Artists, graphic designers, programmers, mechanical engineers and actors all bring their own skills to the business of creation.;TEDxSpenceSchool

IDEO, Milne tells us, creates an awful lot of things. Some things are developed as part of a customer experience and some happen as the result of the constant design evolution process that the team follows. Computer equipment, medical devices, pizza cutters and aircraft interiors have all been the results of this process.

The process starts with the problem statement. When you think that an experience is awful and it needs to change, you are creating your own problem statement. The company’s toy lab had a desire to create a football you could kick without another person holding the ball.

The team then held a brainstorm meeting to think of any possible way that the problem statement could be solved. Chris says that the diversity of his team is the most important factor in developing a great list of brainstorm ideas.

Once the concept is selected from the brainstormed ideas, the product enters the prototype phase. IDEO defines a prototype as a rough draft, and expects to go through several iterations of prototype development. Prototypes need honest feedback from testers who will tell the design team if the part is useful and answers the problem statement.

In the case of the one man football, several iterations of prototype took place until a revolutionary accident occurred. Testers discovered that after an errant toss twisted the fins of one prototype, the football moved as a near perfect spiral. This changed the problem statement from creating a football you could use by yourself to creating a football that would fly with a great spiral in a fun way.

The talk concludes with Milne discussing a prototype that the company did for an app they were developing. A large foam core board was printed with a smart phone template and a cutout in the screen. Team members stood behind the hole and acted out the functions of the app while another team member simulated the user experience.

Chris Milne gives a great talk about prototyping and iterative design. His grasp of the design process is streamlined but covers everything I would want first year engineering students to know when developing proof of concept models.;TEDxSpenceSchool