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Pretotyping - Fake It Before you Make It

What is Pretotyping

Pretotyping should not be mistaken for prototypes. The term was invented by the google man Alberto Savoia, who has played an important role in the development of several well-known products, such as the programming language JAVA and Google AdWords. The actual word, pretotyping, comes from the two words Pretendo and Prototype, meaning a “pretend prototype”.

What is then the difference between Pretotyping and prototypes? A prototype is typically an operative product that is based on a bunch of technology and especially time and money. A prototype on the other hand, is a quick test of an idea to see if it holds water in the real world and if it a product that may be used.

Fail often BUT Fast!

It is all about eliminating bad ideas before too many resources are wasted on them. An example of a Pretotype vs. Prototype is AnyShape vs. classic 3D Print. AnyShape is a material that as opposed to 3D print does not require expensive machinery and software and a lot of hours in front of a computer while working with CAD drawings. Of course you can be lucky and download a finished CAD drawing and borrow a 3D printer.

A Pretotype does not necessarily eliminate a Prototype, but it should be made before the Prototype. Below is an example of how AnyShape is used to make a handle for a regular beer can in connection with a Christmas workshop. AnyShape has some clear advantages and several of them would otherwise require many hours work in front of a computer. The advantages of AnyShape are:

  • You can optimize your design to make an ergonomic grip (comfortable to hold and good balance)
  • You can test many different models quickly after each other (Fail often, but fast)
  • You can test how well the handle is gripped around the can (is the can easy to get in and out of the grip)
  • Make it easy for more people to participate in the brainstorming process

Pretotyping Example

There are many more reasons as to why you should make a Pretotype than the ones listed above, but the most important reason is probably that you get the opportunity to examine if the new handle will just be in the way in your kitchen drawer or if it will actually be used.

If you find out that the handle is useful, then you can consider to 3D scan it, fine-tune the design in a CAD program and then mass-produce the handle.

Read more

If you want to know more about Pretotyping, then we recommend this video on the topic. Alberto Savoia has also written a free PDF book on the topic called ”Pretotype It – Make sure you are building the right it before you build it right” . Alberto Savoia's homepage.