"Paper prototypes" is a term I first heard with regards to building user interfaces.
Draw the buttons and areas out on a stack of cardboard and talk someone through the interface and see if it makes sense, if it does, maybe spend some time with a code editor or image manipulation program or whatever is next.
The heart of it is kind of close to "Do the right amount of work to figure out if your idea is any good".
I think that this is a _really good_ idea. I try to do it more, and with physical things.
For me, I have a terrible habbit of working on an idea because it sounds good, and spending hours or weeks on something and then my interest wanes or something else takes over, or I just realize it wasn't a really good idea to begin with.
I have been getting into the habbit of asking "could I make a crappier version of this"?
It really helps me figure out what was good about the idea originally, and what qualities are required in a more robust version, vs what qualities I can dispose of.
My latest example of this is hex bit storage. I have been working for several years to build discipline about cleaning and organizing my workspaces. I'm not a natural at it. This week I'm gathering and organizing all of my hex bits. I downloaded a pattern for thingiverse and printed 3 different non working versions before I realized I could do all my prototyping in cardboard to figure out exactly what I wanted.
I rebuilt it in cardboard and now I'm back to the printer.
Previously I've done paper prototypes for interactive art installations, sidewalk-chalk drafting implements and other various toys, and I'll frequently mock something up in cardboard or newsprint (sometimes at scale) before I start in wood and metal.
Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it's just fun.
Here's some stuff I made that got paper prototypes first:
19th July 2020
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I'm Issac. I live in Oakland. I make things for fun and money. I use electronics and computers and software. I manage teams and projects top to bottom. I've worked as a consultant, software engineer, hardware designer, artist, technology director and team lead. I do occasional fabrication in wood and plastic and metal. I run a boutique interactive agency with my brother Kasey and a roving cast of experts at Kelly Creative Tech. I was the Director of Technology for Nonchalance during the The Latitude Society project. I was the Lead Web Developer and then Technical Marketing Engineer at Nebula, which made an OpenStack Appliance. I've been building things on the web and in person since leaving Ohio State University's Electrical and Computer engineering program in 2007. Lots of other really dorky things happened to me before that, like dropping out of high school to go to university, getting an Eagle Scout award, and getting 6th in a state-wide algebra competition. I have an affinity for hopscotch.