Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

2D vs. 3D vs. 4D prototyping: The right resolution for the right prototype

Ryan Vinyard (Highway1)
2:05pm–2:45pm Wednesday, 06/24/2015
Get It Made
Location: Fire House
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 6 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

Attendees do not need previous technical knowledge, only an open mind about their definition and approach to prototyping!


In this session, participants will learn how to productively use iterative prototyping while increasing in resolution, all the while learning from each prototype and getting meaningful feedback from users along the way. Apple and IDEO went through hundreds of foam studies together for the first computer mouse just to establish the appropriate size and feel of the product, much less the engineering functionality. This session will build on other examples of startups that learned from early prototypes and were able to pivot at a lower cost, as well as companies that used video campaigns to communicate effectively. It will break down the different stages of prototyping:

  • 2D prototypes – Often overlooked as a starting point between brainstorming and prototyping the full product idea in 3D. You can learn so much about your idea, the prototyping method, and – more importantly – user feedback by keeping the prototype simple and raw. A glue gun is the inventor’s best friend at this stage. Tools for 2D prototyping include cardboard, foamcore, x-acto knives, and laser cutters.
  • 3D prototypes – Traditionally the go-to form for inventors to show the product in final form. While this is helpful for more realized product ideas, it can hinder innovation when it limits the inventor’s ability to work on new feature sets or isolate design considerations when soliciting early user feedback. CNC machining, PCB breadboards, and typical manufacturing methods have traditionally driven 3D prototyping, while the current trends of 3D printing and open electrical systems like Arduino have enabled inventors to jump into 3D prototyping sooner, sometimes to the idea’s detriment.
  • 4D prototypes – A more immersive experience. It adds the element of time to make the experience deeper. Oftentimes a video or a physical experiential prototype of the environment are required to explain a product vision. There’s a reason videos are necessary to explain Kickstarter campaigns. Experiential prototypes have taken the form of a proposed redesign of a hospital waiting room that can only be explained by going through a mocked-up waiting room experience yourself. Tools for 4D prototyping include cameras and video editing software, as well as 3D prototyping methods for creating scenes or an environment for an experiential prototype.
Photo of Ryan Vinyard

Ryan Vinyard


Ryan is the engineering lead at Highway1, a hardware-focused startup accelerator located in San Francisco under parent company PCH International. He is a Mechanical Engineer who came to PCH through its consulting arm Lime Lab, where he developed consumer products for Fortune 500 brands. Previous to PCH, Ryan worked at startups in the cleantech and electric vehicle space where he developed novel powertrain, motor control, and thermal systems. Ryan holds a B.S. in product design from Stanford University.