Product Designers

How can product designers fuel new product development? This is a question explored in a Stanford University study which found that designers benefit from using multiple prototypes. Specifically, researchers found that creating and receiving feedback on various prototypes in parallel, as opposed to serially – leads to the following:

1. More Divergent Ideation

Ideation consists of divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking involves creating and generating numerous options. Convergent thinking means zeroing in on one concept.

It can be extremely fruitful for designers to practice generating several ideas. Not only does this process help curb perfectionism, but it can also eventually lead to creating some of the most innovative products. As the Founder of IDEO Toy Lab, Brendan Boyle puts it: “Often, the brilliant ideas seem ridiculous. Paying to stay in another person’s home and having a stranger drive you around [in their personal vehicle] are great examples of seemingly ridiculous ideas — but Uber and Airbnb went on to become hugely successful companies.”

2. More Explicit Comparison

Sharing multiple designs helps designers form constructive comparisons between prototypes and products. According to the Stanford study, “Comparison helps people understand underlying principles better than just one.” Additionally, “parallel prototyping better enables people to compare feedback on multiple prototypes, leading to a better understanding of how key variables interrelate.”

Comparing is instructive in new product development. The more experience and knowledge designers possess, the better.

3. Less Investment in a Single Concept

In their abstract, the researchers note that “Overly investing in a single design idea can lead to fixation and impede the collaborative process.” But when the focus is placed on creating multiple prototypes in which everyone has a stake, greater collaboration is fostered. Additionally, when teams generate several ideas at once, “people feel more shared ownership and stronger team cohesiveness.”

Using multiple prototypes also promotes the integration of ideas to enrich the overall design and end product. A study participant explains, “Getting a different perspective helped, and also seeing different ideas — not flaws in mine, but different ideas in his that I’d like to borrow.”

4. Better Overall Design Performance

Sharing multiple prototypes also results in designs of higher-quality.

As part of the Stanford study, participants created online ads. The ads created with multiple prototypes received more clicks and shares than those created with a single prototype. The former also received a higher rating from judges.

In summary, this study demonstrates how parallel prototyping fuels new product development by helping designers 1) generate multiple options, 2) better understand underlying principles through comparison, 3) enhance collaboration, and 4) improve design performance.

If you’re in the process of launching a new product, we’re here to help. With over 46 years of experience in helping businesses achieve their potential, Pivot International leverages leading-edge design, development, and manufacturing practices to bring award-winning products to market. Are you interested in learning what a partnership with Pivot can do for you? Reach out to us today and consult with one of our design professionals for free.