The role of prototypes in communication between stakeholders

Carlye A. Lauff, Daniel Knight, Daria Kotys-Schwartz, Mark E. Rentschler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prototypes are complex and dynamic artifacts that shape social situations during product development. A ten-month applied ethnographic study of a footwear company recounts prototypes' evolving role in communication between three stakeholder groups. In this case study, we use Mol's “bodies multiple” theory to describe prototypes enactment as communication tools across contexts. This study finds that prototypes become encoded with information that is translated, decoded, and re-encoded by stakeholder groups. Prototypes remain the same across contexts, yet the spokesperson guiding the prototype may change. Raising awareness of prototypes role in communication, such as their ability to build confidence through socialization, can allow design teams to better plan for how information is encoded into the prototyped artifact and the messaging surrounding it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalDesign Studies
StatePublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the company in this research project for the unlimited access to their organization. We also thank the many formal and informal reviewers who aided in the revisions for this paper. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • case study
  • communication artifacts
  • design management
  • design practice
  • prototypes


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of prototypes in communication between stakeholders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this