Prototyping for Children: Understanding how fidelity affects children’s comprehension of prototypes

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Codner, Andria Carolynn; Lauff, Carlye Anne
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 3005-3014
DOI number:


Testing prototypes with intended end users is critical to the design process. There is limited research on testing prototypes with certain types of end users, specifically children for toy products. Additionally, prototypes evolve in fidelity throughout a project, adding to the complexity in developing best practices for prototype testing. This paper analyzes children’s understanding of physical prototypes at various levels of fidelity throughout a university semester-long design project developing wooden toys. Through analyzing students’ feedback on their prototype testing sessions, aspects of the prototypes that aid or inhibit children from understanding both form and function are uncovered. These aspects relate to Norman’s principles of interaction and their inclusion in prototypes, specifically mental models, signifiers, and affordances. This paper suggests to include these principles in prototypes early in development to guide the user during testing. The goal of this research is to be a resource for those developing products for children, as well as adding knowledge around prototyping testing at various levels of fidelity.

Keywords: Design methods, Design practice, Industrial design, Children

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