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Prototyping on a Map

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This method translates abstract ideas about the future development of a place into tangible structures and shapes.


In this activity, participants visualize an experimental design for the development of a specific place (such as a neighbourhood, farm, or village). Using a blank map as a starting point, each person sketches their concept, using the materials provided. The design should translate more abstract ideas, principles, or feelings that were identified at an earlier stage, into tangible shapes and concepts. For example, if the farm is seen metaphorically as a bird’s nest, or a church, this process can help represent these abstract ideas in a concrete form. The plan will be modified in an iterative process, first individually, then in pairs and groups.


  1. Starting with a clear table, share prototype materials organized in boxes and jars as well as a large map of the designated site (one per person);
  2. Working in silence, each person uses the materials provided
    to make a sketch of their design by laying any combination of objects provided on the map (leaving them unattached so that they can be modified in future iterations);
  3. (optional) In pairs, people share their prototypes, highlighting the parts that they are most excited about, and then attempt to merge the two prototypes into one. Remind everyone that this step requires some negotiation and an openness to changing things and letting go. Request that everyone make a sincere effort to listen intently to one another, and verbally acknowledge elements that are most important to the other.
  4. (optional) Repeat step 3 in groups.

Place on U
15 - 45 minutes
Materials Needed

A very general map of the case study being used (e.g. with the buildings outlined, indication of roads, ponds, rivers, indication of the poles), one copy per participant; a selection of natural materials that can be placed on the map (e.g. dried pasta, beans, carrot slices; wooden sticks; small stones; matches; shells...); other, artistic small objects (optional).

Future Visioning
Design Thinking
Maker Processes & Crafts
Ideation & Brainstorming
Visual Learning
Tip and Experiences
  • Encourage people to ‘go wild’ and experiment with outlandish ideas;
  • Use natural, potentially edible, compostable material.

Relevant References & Resources

Rapid Prototyping: http://www.designkit.org/methods/26

Prototyping in Design Thinking: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/design-thinking-get-started-with-prototyping

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