How to define a visual prototype?


Someone once said that an image is worth a thousand words. In a world full of images all around us (for instance, Instagram and Facebook have become very popular social networks due to their image sharing capabilities) like the one in which we live nowadays, this can be true.

In fact, in the world in which designers live this is especially true. Designers bring ideas to life through imagery and the creation of visual prototypes which in turn help us achieve better results on our goals. Visual prototyping can be an easy task which can be done by designers and non-designers alike.

But what exactly is a visual prototype supposed to be?

A visual prototype is the visual representation of an idea which can be further developed. It can start as a simple rough sketch made using pen and the back of a notebook, a very complex and developed 3D design using one of the best designing tools available, etc.

It is mostly used to show the visual details of an idea without having to resort to the creation of a physical model of it. It is very important because it serves as a quick preview of what the product we are creating might very possibly look like after its completion (in most cases without paying too much attention at first to trivial aspects such as color, etc).

Even in everyday life, we make visual prototypes in the form of plans, maps and other visual representations of ideas. Sometimes, a visual prototype can be very effective when trying to convince a client of working with us or when showing a team what our goal for a project in visual terms should be. It is much less expensive than a physical model and it can be done effortlessly even if you are not a designer and you are also a terrible drawer. The more attention paid to details in the visual prototype, the higher the chances of figuring out possible flaws in the design and correct them before they make it further into the process.

Moreover, there can be more than one visual prototype for the same object, which can give us different perspectives on the same design. Also, they can provide a visual stimulus for all those involved as they can visually appreciate how the final product will be. Making a visual prototype can be fast (sometimes almost instantaneous), cheap (or even free) and easy (it does not get easier than drawing a model with pen and paper).

There are many advantages to creating visual prototypes of our projects. They provide us with guidelines for orienting our work towards more efficient designs. Never underestimate the power of a good image.