How to prototype the intangible

Intangible prototype, tangible experience.

It is easy to think about making prototypes and iterations when the project involves a tangible object, but how exactly can you visualise an intangible prototype? Tze shares some examples of ways to create a tangible experience of an intangible prototype.


  • There are different fidelity mediums to use to envision things that are yet to exist or are intangible, ranging from a simple storyboard and basic narrative to a full experience visualised
  • Even if it’s not an object-based experience, it’s about visualising how someone would experience it
  • “Sometimes you don’t need the prototype to be tangible, but you need the experience to be tangible.”
  • Any medium can be used to create and deliver that experience, not of what it is but what it might feel like
  • Using stories is one way to put your audience in an imagined world and communicate what is intangible, and virtual reality may be one tool to create this story

Full Transcript

Sometimes you don’t need the prototype to be tangible, but you need the experience to be tangible. You know, like, how does the person feel when they’re going through this process?

Okay, so maybe we go back a little bit to this idea of experimenting and kind of trying things out, right? When it comes to designing something that’s not tangible, like something that cannot be translated into a product or an app, how do we prototype or test these things? Like a strategy or service, how are these done when there’s nothing tangible to iterate and create?

So I think there are some categories of projects. We get future concept projects that sometimes require envisioning things which don’t exist today, right, currently. And if we’re just talking about pure medium, I think that there are different ways that we do that.

Sometimes if it’s on a lower fidelity, it can just be something as simple as a storyboard. It can be the storyboard coupled with some basic narrative. And then if you start to go up in fidelity, then it’ll be visualising the experience.

Even if it’s not an object-based experience, but visualising how someone would experience it. And talking through that process or narrating through that process. And I think the fidelity can just go from there, right.

We have done 3D prototypes as well, virtual reality prototypes. We’ve then tried to do… Okay, like you say, it’s not physical, right? So I can’t say tangible prototypes.

But sometimes you don’t need the prototype to be tangible, but you need the experience to be tangible. You know, like, how does the person feel when they’re going through this process? So to be able to create some kind of proxy for that, I think that’s something that sometimes we can build.

The other thing is, I mean, those are typical mediums that we use in design projects. But the reality is, you can use anything, right? And sometimes that’s fun for the team to say, hey, can we communicate this project entirely via audio? And that’s the deliverable? Right? And can you deliver that experience via audio? Or a different kind of medium? And if the projects allow for that, that’s pretty fun, yeah.

Would you say, I mean, from what you have mentioned, it sounds a lot like the narrative or the story is quite an important factor in these sorts of intangible testing.


Yeah, I mean, in the end, what you’re trying to communicate is not just an idea of what it is, but an idea of what it might feel like, right? And stories do that.

It puts you in a world to imagine, hey, this is what, you know, this is what Middle-Earth looks like, or this is what a fantasy, a place out of your fantasy looks like. So I think in that sense, as much as narratives are used in design and in marketing, they are really a powerful way to communicate.

And we’ve done that on research projects, like the outcome, what you’re delivering to the client is not an object, but is an understanding of “This is how people perceive your brand.” That’s really intangible right, it’s like a perception. You can’t give them an object, you can’t give them an interaction. And for that project, what we did to communicate that was to do that with audio bites. Like, hey, these are all the things that people are saying about your brand. These are all the things that suppliers are saying about how do people perceive your brand. And that becomes a really powerful tool because it’s directly from the people who interact directly with that touch point.

Desiree Lim, Kevin Yeo, Matthew Wong


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