Paper, scissors, glue, cardboard, and markers. Not usually the tools one imagines when speculating about game and interface design, but paper prototyping is one of the fastest ways to get from nebulous idea to robust concept. And not only is this part of the process about speed and agility, it is also about the freedom to generate a lot of ideas when sometimes starting at the software/hardware level can be so restrictive, really good ideas never even make it onto the table.
One surprising example I came across recently regarding the value of paper prototyping comes from none other than Nintendo. When Nintendo wanted to collaborate with Japanese social media company Hatena to do design for the Miiverse on the Wii U tablet-like GamePad, Hatena did not have a physical prototype from Nintendo with which to test the look and feel of their designs. Hatena’s UI designer Kazuyuki Motoyama felt it was necessary to have the device at hand to really understand the user’s experience. Instead of waiting for Nintendo’s tablet design to be finalized and shipped to them, Motoyama got busy with some cardboard and glue, staying up late to assemble a clever look and feel physical prototype. Source: Gama Sutra