Postcards from the Future – Scott Klemmer at TEDxSanDiego 2016

Chances are someone in your life has imparted on you the mantra “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

In the world of design, this idea becomes a key aspect of prototypes. In fact, the very definition of prototype is “a first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied.”

So why are prototypes so important to the world of design? According to Scott Klemmer, when you log onto a computer, chances are you’re part of an experiment. Here, designers are trying out different alternatives (or prototypes) to see what works best.

“I call this idea design at large,” said Klemmer, the co-founder and co-director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego. “It’s real world, at scale, and we’re being able to compare alternatives and learn from what we’re finding.”

During his talk at TEDxSanDiego, Klemmer went on to give various examples of prototypes that at first did not succeed, not because the people were necessarily smarter than others around them (although yes, they were really smart), but because they tried lots of things.

So what makes prototypes particularly magical?

“Prototypes instantiate a future that doesn’t exist yet,” said Klemmer. “And what designers do is we time travel just a little bit into the future with our prototypes and once we know what the world is like there we can send back these post cards that give information about what to really make.”

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