Exercise 2 - 3D Model Prototyping

This week we explored 3D model prototyping through redesigning the ecoATM, a kiosk used for recycling old electronic devices for cash. We were shown some examples of low fidelity cardboard, foam core, and foam prototyping techniques, given access to materials, and set loose.

The redesign had to include the following:

  • a touchscreen for text input and display
  • a compartment for depositing devices
  • a feedback mechanism to indicate to users that their devices are safely deposited and secure from theft
  • a way to authenticate users using a photo ID
  • a way to dispense QR code stickers, receipts, and cash

After doing some research to understand on how the current ecoATM operates, we realized that the current user experience was complicated and that the appearance of the kiosks were extremely boxy and unattractive. Users had to take multiple steps and unnecessarily deposit, remove, and redeposit their devices. 

To address these issues we decided to explore a completely new cylindrical kiosk concept, to make the ecoATM a destination rather than an afterthought. Using an interesting and unexpected form to attract users. 

We also wanted to focus on simplifying the experience and provide transparency into the device and ID scanning process.

What I learned from the process:

  • There are positive and negative tradeoffs to building at small scale. Working at small scale let's you explore a concept quickly and provides an overview how an interaction might work without sweating the details. Our team found it helpful to create a cardboard person at small scale as a point of reference. However, it doesn't allow you to really test the ergonomics of a design, which is a benefit of prototyping at full scale. 
  • Sketching in 2D helps for documenting ideas, but actually building in 3D helps you think with your hands. There are ideas that are difficult to describe on paper that can be easily shown in 3D. 
  • Ideas emerge from working. As you work with your hands, not only do you see what doesn't work, but you discover new possibilities that you may not have considered otherwise. 
  • Coordinating work can be challenging when working on physical objects because all the pieces of the design need to fit together.
  • One of the themes brought out through our class critique was the matter of accessibility, which our group didn't consider as much as we should have. However, in our debrief, we talked about other ways our design could have addressed different types of users and even those with disabilities. 

The Pros & Cons of 3D Model Prototyping:


  • It's inexpensive and quick. With some very basic easy-to-find materials--cardboard, poster tubing, card stock, glue, tape, wire, box cutter/Exacto knives, and scissors, we were able to explore a completely new design concept in less than 2 hours from start to finish.
  • Good for exploring shape, form, size of physical products. 
  • Good for testing ergonomics, especially when created in full scale.


  • At lower fidelities, prototypes are limited in demonstrating the exact texture and materials that could affect user experience
  • Requires a bit more skill and practice in construction than 2D paper prototypes. 
  • Requires physical space to build and work and can get messy quickly. 
  • It can be challenging for multiple people to be working on a single prototype at the same time.