for the love of prototypes

why, when redesigning school lunch, one starts with plastic fruit

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

On Monday, Mark Fisher from IDEO/ Chicago visited the interdisciplinary class, Design for Social Change, to talk about using prototypes in the design process. The class is taught by Nick Tobier from A&D and Moses Lee of Engineering.

The design challenge for the class is "the school lunch", a woefully lacking meal for most school children across the country. During the past few weeks, the students have been interviewing parents, children, cafeteria cooks, teachers and other relevant parties to assemble some problem statements to work from. They are now ready to start prototyping.

Mark Fisher has been at IDEO for 14 years but hails from the Detroit area originally. Mark was so enthusiastic about prototypes he was practically evangelical. “We make hundred of prototypes when we’re working on a product. We use foam core, clay, anything we can get our hands on. This is how you think,” he says, “through making!” Mark described bringing a kind of ‘beginner’s mind’ to the design process. Surround yourself with people that don’t think like you. Let your potential users design an ideal prototype for you, not because you want their designs but because, in the act of making, they will end of showing you the problems they can’t verbalize.  And seek out the extremes-- the user who would use the product three times a day and the user who would use it once a month.  That’s where you find the most interesting problems to solve.

After Mark’s talk, Nick Tobier handed out plastic fruit and vegetables and other supplies so students could begin thinking through their design problems with prototypes. Stay tuned for more from this class. Next week, they'll be handing in the prototypes they come up with on Wednesday.


Zack Jacobson-Weaver has a moment of reflection with a plastic weiner.


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