Prototyping Canvas

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What is Prototyping Canvas?

Prototyping Canvas is a strategic prototyping template that guides users to answer critical assumptions or questions.

Why Prototyping Canvas?

Prototyping Canvas effectively guides designers through prototyping processes, facilitates a common prototyping language amongst team members.

It encourages intentional prototyping practice, which should ultimately reduce resources and improve design outcomes.

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Process Phase




45 min



Pen, pencil or markers, A3 Prototyping Canvas Template

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Method Card Reference

DI Method Cards_Compiled Deck_Version 2.
DI Method Cards_Compiled Deck_Version 2.




  • Be familiar with the prototyping mindsets, techniques and approaches

  • Start with an opportunity. and select a few top concepts of solution



  • Choose one concept or solution and then explore

  • Let the critical assumptions and questions guide the prototype development


    Fill out the template until everything is done, except Insights



  • As a team, discuss the various versions of the canvas

  • Talk about the assumptions and questions, and how you plan to build and test prototypes


Build, Test and Reflect

  • Use the sketch and build plan to turn your sketch into a prototype

  • Test the prototype as quickly as possible, often with users or other stakeholders

  • Capture feedback from testing, both qualitative and quantitative and reflect on future directions

Best Practices


We recommend first work on the canvas individually or in pairs. Then, use the various Prototyping Canvas to have a larger conversation as a team.

Pair & Share


Use the Prototyping Canvas as a conversation tool with your team, client, or other important stakeholders.

Conversation Tool


Make sure you embody the important mindsets for prototyping during this activity: have a bias towards action, practice non-attachment towards your concepts especially during testing, and build to think and using “failures” as learning opportunities.



Every prototype needs a purpose. A prototype should answer a question or validate/invalidate and assumption. Use your assumptions and questions to guide the development of the simplest prototype possible to validate these assumptions and/or answer these questions.

Prototype Purpose


Find the quickest path to experience: you want to prototype in the shortest amount of time with minimal cost and resources used to test your assumptions and/or answer your key questions.

Quickest Path to Experience


Use one or more prototyping principles to help you achieve building the simplest prototype possible to test your critical assumption or question

Prototype Principles



Demo Video

This video gives you a walk-through on how to do an Prototyping Canvas, through a worked example of a Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge.



Here are examples of the Prototyping Canvas for solving a problem posed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and solved by two design teams (Lauff, Menold, and Small, 2016). The problem to solve is: How might we increase social-emotional competencies (SEC) in young children? The teams engaged in the human-centered design process to solve these problems.


Additional Resources on Prototyping

  1. TED Ed Lesson by Tom Chi on Rapid Prototyping Google Glass,

  2. IDEO Zine: “You can prototype anything”, to get in the mindset that you truly can prototype anything, even a restaurant

  3. Pretotype It: free e-book by Alberto Savoia, “make sure you are building the right ‘it’, before you build it right”, introducing idea of ‘pretotypes’ as early exploratory prototypes

  4. Design Thinking: Prototyping short online course by Randall Elliot of frog design through Lynda platform

  5. ACUMEN+ IDEO short online free course on Human Centered Design 201: Prototyping