Years ago, I bought a plastic tool box and started collecting useful bits and pieces for creating prototypes. Good rapid prototyping should be 3 things: cheap, fast and easy. So I procured items that would help encourage this approach.
Here’s a list of what’s in my tool kit. (Note, not everything fits in my tool box at one time but it’s very useful for carrying stuff to a prototyping session.)
- Pens, pencils and markers/ textas.
- Simple stickers, different shapes and colours.
- Plain white paper for sketching. Long rolls of butcher’s paper or kids craft paper are great for when you need large sections of paper. Coloured paper is good too.
- Post it notes. I have a love/hate relationship with these. They are very useful but can be over relied on during the brainstorming stage at the expense of moving on to create actual prototypes.
- Graph paper is ideal for sketching levels, layouts and journeys. Hexagonal paper in particular is very useful for mapping movement because your characters can move diagonally. If you can’t find any locally, you can find these online and print them.
- Cardboard – all kinds! They come in so many different thicknesses and are essential for 3D prototyping.
- Adhesives. Tape, double sided tape, glue sticks, blu tack, hot glue gun. Depending on whether you need to stick things together temporarily or permanently.
- Small figurines to represent players and NPCs (non-playing characters) preferably in different colours. For example very small toys or game tokens.
- Cutting blade/scalpel.
- Steel ruler.
- Cutting mat.
- Larger items that are useful for role playing like plastic cones, sticker labels, string, blu tack, larger sections of paper/cardboard etc
Where do I find all these amazing items?
Prototyping materials don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Plus, the added benefit of cheap (or free) items is that you aren’t so precious with supplies and are more likely to discard prototypes for the next iteration. But I do have a few tips on how to creatively source items for your kit.
Your local Daiso, Poundland, reject or two dollar store. These stores stock basic household items and stationary for very low prices. When you start developing more complex 3D prototypes, get creative and think about repurposing items beyond their original design. For example, if you need a pen holder you don’t have to buy a special container marked “pen holder”. You could use a glass jar, teapot, vase, chopstick storage box, plastic food storage container etc
Recycling. When I was a kid I had a craft box. I saved every bit of cardboard, ribbon, and egg carton I could get my hands on. Even now as a designer I have one. And why not? It’s free and once you get started, you’ll start looking differently at objects you might once have just thrown out.
Op shop/ Thrift shop. Ok, I’m the first to admit it. I love visiting Op Shops. I love browsing racks, picking through shelves, and rummaging in boxes. I wonder about these objects that get left behind. For what purpose were they originally bought and why weren’t they needed any more? I love to recycle rather than buy something new. I also love repurposing items for uses different to what their designers may have intended. Mostly, I love the random serendipity of it all. There are hidden delights for one and all! So when you deck out your protoyping kit, be sure to check out all the various sections of your local Op Shop. For example, the pieces that come in board games are perfect as player figurines or tokens and the board itself may come in handy.
I hope this information helps to whet your appetite so you can go forth and create your own rapid prototyping kit. You can start collecting bits and pieces today! The more you prototype the more you’ll start to see everyday common objects as potential tools and parts for your next prototype. And that’s another benefit to creating a kit, it gets your brain working and thinking about how to create all kinds of prototypes.