Concept drawings? "prototypes"?

1 Feb 2005 - 8:33am
9 years ago
7 replies
704 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

http://www.wired.com/news/space/0,2697,66457,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

This is an article in wired.com about concept drawings for NASA and other
space agencies.

The reason I bring it here, is to point out an example of where
non-working-prototypes are valuable total product lifecycle process.

The artist put it this way:

"Conceptual space art provides the initial glimpse at what could be," said
Rawlings. "It helps sell the program, it helps refine the mission planners'
sense of the mission's details, and it inspires both internal and external
audiences."

- dave

Comments

1 Feb 2005 - 10:25am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Feb 1, 2005, at 10:38 AM, Petteri Hiisilä wrote:

> Indeed. What IS the replacement for visual thinking?

Linguistic thinking aka writing. Written scenarios are one way I use of
thinking with words.

> Afaik, that's how the human mind works.

Channeling Ziya: Is this really true? I thought there were many ways of
accessing learned information and learning new information, not only
visual means.

> Our thoughts are images, scenarios in the "mind's eye". Have you heard
> of anybody who claims that he wouldn't think visually?

For some (me included), I had to learn how to think visually. Some of
it has to do with education. In the US especially, many students are no
longer taught any visual literacy at all: no drawing or art classes
(they're too expensive, supposedly, and not as practical as math,
science, etc.)

Dan

1 Feb 2005 - 12:46pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Feb 1, 2005, at 6:33 AM, David Heller wrote:

> "Conceptual space art provides the initial glimpse at what could be,"
> said
> Rawlings. "It helps sell the program, it helps refine the mission
> planners'
> sense of the mission's details, and it inspires both internal and
> external
> audiences."

This is what I've been saying. And people who've worked with me know
I've used my screenshot process to do exactly what this article is
talking about. Look at how compelling those concept drawings appear.
Detailed. In context. You get a real sense for the direction of a
particular project. This is the same to me as a polished set of
screenshots for a product I use to get buy-in, move design direction
forward, etc.

How many designers in our field spend time creating "concept drawings"
of polished design directions versus drawing flow diagrams and writing
personas? I know I do, but it seems I'm in the minority when I listen
to people on this list or attend CHI. go back through the records and
you'll find threads where people disagreed with me on creating
screenshots that look polished and final just not one year ago.

By the way, this *is* a prototype. It's just a static one. Fine, call
it "conceptual drawing" but the fact remains it looks *finished*. How
many people in the high-tech product design field spend the time to
make finished looking work versus working on the presentation of
research information or descriptions of what the design should be? I
don't see enough of it and that's my point. I spend a lot of time on
these sorts of things and as little time of the deliverables that don't
help me solve the problems that go into the final product.

FWIW, once this sort of thing gets buy-in, one of the next stages is to
build one. In fact, often times, people will build a scale model to go
along with these conceptual drawings. They are all prototypes in my
mind.

Andrei

1 Feb 2005 - 1:14pm
Troy Brophy
2005

> Andrei Herasimchuk
> How many designers in our field spend time creating "concept drawings"
> of polished design directions versus drawing flow diagrams and writing
> personas? I know I do, but it seems I'm in the minority when I listen
> to people on this list or attend CHI. go back through the records and
> you'll find threads where people disagreed with me on creating
> screenshots that look polished and final just not one year ago.

I've found that polished screenshots are often the only way to get approval
of a design. I've done design for five different clients/managers, and in
each case the screenshots seemed to energize and excite them more than a
diagram or quick mockup could ever do.

In fact, one mockup that I'd done in black & white was frowned at, but when
basically the same mockup was presented as a screenshot, in color, the
client was very enthusiastic.

It seems that people need to see what might be, and are unwilling/unable to
visualize a finished product based on sketches, diagrams.

Troy Brophy

1 Feb 2005 - 1:20pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

AH> By the way, this *is* a prototype. It's just a static one. Fine, call
AH> it "conceptual drawing" but the fact remains it looks *finished*.

I am reluctant to call it "conceptual drawing". The word "conceptual"
means that the drawing must include not only objects, but also
relationahips between them.

The images in Wired's article are beautiful and useful indeed. They
communicate idea brilliantly. They just have little to do with
"conceptual drawing", sorry.

Lada

1 Feb 2005 - 1:47pm
Jack L. Moffett
2005

> Troy Brophy:
> It seems that people need to see what might be, and are unwilling/unable to
> visualize a finished product based on sketches, diagrams.

I typically decide what level of "finish" to present to a client based on
how open I am to changes at the point it is presented. For example, if I am
presenting UI concepts at the beginning of a project, I'm interested in the
client's ideas and feedback. I need to know what they like and what they
don't. I have found that presenting pencil sketches at this point puts the
client in the mindset that nothing is set in stone. We can change anything -
it's just graphite.

However, if we are at a point in the project that the client has signed off
on the design, or we are on a tight deadline, presenting polished screens
communicates the fact that the design is done. Anything more than tweaks
will affect the project schedule.

Most of the clients I have worked with accept pencil sketches as
deliverables without complaint. I've had more trouble getting our own sales
personnel to buy into that approach, as they don't believe the customer will
be satisfied with something so unfinished.

On the other hand, I would never expect a client to sign-off on a design
without seeing finished screens. So, each artifact has it's own place in the
process. As for diagrams, I typically use them at all stages.

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.690.2360 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

The public is more familiar with
bad design than good design.
It is, in effect, conditioned
to prefer bad design, because
that is what it lives with.
The new becomes threatening,
the old reassuring.

- Paul Rand

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2 Feb 2005 - 2:17pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I think this discussion is taking the issue of "visual" at the wrong level.

What is so powerful about any prototype (I'm not converted yet, Andrei) is
that it is a representation beyond the linguistic or other abstraction.

These types of models allow for a visceral response that is hard to get from
other forms of abstraction. In this way I would say that perception on the
sensory levels are stronger b/c they are more direct than the linguistic (or
abstract--e.g. Maps and diagrams) b/c the abstract ones have to be processed
into interpretations of the sensory (or perceptual as Lada put it) and quite
often interpretation leads to loss of understanding, and definitely loss of
emotional connection.

-- dave

2 Feb 2005 - 3:34pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

David Heller wrote:

> What is so powerful about any prototype (I'm not converted yet, Andrei) is
> that it is a representation beyond the linguistic or other abstraction.

No offense, but the direction in this discussion feels a bit too
academic to me. A little too much arcane language talking around an
issue that seems to be far simpler than the descriptions make it out to be.

(I point this out as a slight ironic point. Not to pick on you Dave, but
I find too many people in this field do the *exact* same thing in design
processes and in meetings. They start complicating the process with
academic and arcane discussions that tend to talk around a point than
drive through the issue. Now that I've pushed the buttons of probably
too many people than was required, I'll continue on with my main point.)

What is so powerful about a well done prototype is the same as a well
designed product. The fact is, a well done, robust prototype doesn't
need to talk around the design because it *is* the design. Or a very
good facsimile of the design up to a point. That point varies from
project to project, but the net effect is a prototype that is fleshed
out enough to create the same sorts of feelings, emotions and
interactions as the real end-product.

What better way to communicate a design decision than to make it and let
people use it?

Remember when the new VW Beetle came out in mid 90s? The concept
prototype at the auto show wowed everyone to the point VW went into
production with them as fast as they could. You could sit in the
prototype car; get a feel for the roominess of the interior even though
the outside seemed smallish; understood the emotional impact of the
curves in the design; where the engine sat in the body. Would VW have
had the same reaction to the car by showing off nothing but the
conceptual sketches? Or describing the car to the general public? Why
would you want to describe and justify the design of the curves of a VW
Beetle to your audience when making it does all the work for you?

Costly? Can be in some cases. Time consuming? Well, I guess that tends
to require an understanding of what current resources are being
allocated and if they are being allocated in a way that yields the best
results. The question tends to become how much this sort of approach
saves in the long run and how much better the process makes the overall
end product.

Andrei

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