Cardboard prototyping means prototyping 3D mock-ups of service environments out of cheap paper or cardboard.  It is a common method to prototype and test physical environments that are part of service experience (e.g. interior of a shop, a ticket machine).

The cardboard prototypes can be actual size or smaller or bigger. Generally, they are a great way to build many smaller versions of a service touchpoint, or environment before switching to full size.


1.START: State the selected “How Might We” statement or a sub-focus area of it.

2.IDENTIFY: Based on your design challenge statement or the focus of what you are interested in, define the criteria, and select suitable participants, considering not only who they are, but also what activities they would do. Consider what you want to prototype and what are the expected outcomes.

3.PREPARE: Organize a meeting with the selected participants, and gather the necessary resources and supplies. Think about what expectations will be set up-front, how you will start and end the workshop, and how much time participants are expected to dedicate to this activity.

4.CONDUCT: For example, ask participants to build service environments of cardboard and paper ready for prototyping. Build first the basic forms (e.g. layout of a venue) then add moving parts. Finally sketch paper prototypes for interface elements. Assign the roles in your group: users, service provider and observers. Then, ask the user (real or not) to perform certain task (for example buy a ticket from the machine). Service providers react and simulate the changes in the reaction of the object or environment by replacing or adding parts. Observer keeps list of issues that they discover. Encourage the users to speak out loud their experiences so the observer can list these remarks.

5.REPORT: Discuss the results with the participants, gather feedback and document the key outcomes.

PREPARATION: up to 60 minutes
DURATION: 45-90 minutes
FACILITATORS: 1 per workshop
RESOURCES: Paper, cardboards or foam board, scissors, X-actos, tape, glue, pens, Post-its, camera
PARTICIPANTS: 3–6, design team, partners, community members, etc.
EXPECTED OUTCOME: Prototype service envionment, touchpoints, interfaces