While rapid prototyping has proved to be an invaluable resource for expediting particular phases of the design process, its decreasing cost of operation and increasing accessibility reveal greater potential for these tools to substantially impact the design process itself. While many studies have investigated the advantages of creating and interacting with physical models in engineering design, this study explores the value of delaying decisions and pursuing many prototypes as it applies to individual designers in the earliest phases of the design process. Inspired by The Second Toyota Paradox, we propose the use of Kolb’s theory of experiential learning to reconcile the implications of set-based rather than point-to-point engineering with the value of an individual designer’s learning through interactions with concrete objects. We compared the performance of engineering students in a design challenge. The independent variable was the number of prototypes the participant was required to produce in the first iteration. Participants who were instructed to produce more prototypes in the same amount of time in which their control counterparts were only required to produce one expressed much higher levels of time constraint and dissatisfaction in their primary prototypes. However, multiple-design participants’ prototypes performed better, showed significantly greater improvement between iterations; in addition, satisfaction increased significantly after completion of the final prototype. We look to Kolb’s theory of experiential learning and an individualized application of corporate concurrent engineering to suggest a new design process heavy in low-fidelity, low-quality physical models in early design stages.

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