Paper prototyping: Repurposing or following purpose

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As mentioned in the last post, here are a few documented examples that I have explored and found interesting when using paper and cardboard. For this post we look at the separate ideas of repurposing and creating a construction that follows a purpose in form and function.

Repurposing

This is something that struck me as ingenious at the time, but if you could repurpose source materials so that they work for you, why not take the opportunity to. During my interaction design studies there were moments where I was alone in documenting the physical artifacts on the camera that came with my iPhone 3GS. The box it came in was a bit steeper and square in both width and depth. That appealed to me and the idea that it can hold my phone while I took video solidified. All that was necessary was to remove one wall of the box and cut into the other for the camera lens, after which I deduced that I will only need four holes in order to secure this box to my chest with the use of string. I used a boxcutter with some leftover shoelace strings I had left over and the process took about an hour.

Following purpose

On the other side of the spectrum, instead of repurposing, one can create with a purpose or function in mind. The image above will require quite a bit of explanation, so bear with me. I had a tablet stand already, though I quite fancied a ghetto version that was not as heavy to lug around. The idea is to make an exercise out of it anyways. Let’s start with the stand’s height. I used seven toilet rolls which I glued together using a glue gun. I am certain there’s some really good reasoning based in physics where having a tight formation of cylinders is very structurally sound. From my understanding there’s enough area on it’s edges that distributes the weight evenly as long as the formation holds. I can stand with my full weight on it for quite a few seconds anyways, and that is interesting. To construct this formation I marked the edges with a pen where the rolls meet at the top and bottom, then used a ruler to put a line where the glue should go. Once the first three were glued together, it was easier to glue the rest around the roll in the middle. Using a glue gun in this situation was a pretty fast way and ensured that the rolls do not shift about if they were taped together instead.

I was feeling adventurous and decided to see what using scotch tape would yield when building the actual stand. Scotch tape, as one can see, helps make the cardboard a bit water resistant if used in large, covering amounts. It also seems to rip less easily and depending on brand, may have stronger sticking properties than masking tape. The properties did not matter so much in this prototype, but it was something you can have in mind when using it. As you see I added thickness to the right side of the stand as the material does not really support the weight of the tablet. I did not have thicker cardboard at the time so this makeshift solution was the next option. As shown right below the added thickness I also had to make supports which will stop the construction folding under the tablet weight. To make this makeshift thickness and the supports which are shown in these images I use a technique which I refer to as curling the cardboard, which I will explain after I briefly talk about cutting cardboard edges.

As it takes time to cut out each cardboard side and tape them together to make edges, it makes sense to simply fold the cardboard to save time. Though the problem here is similar to folding paper, you may have to fold against the grain and that will cause the fold to waver or not fold the direction you wish at all. So the following diagram outlines a simple trick that will help make folding thick cardstock, paperboard or even corrugated fiberboard very neat and clean-cut.

Steps to cutting thick cardstock, paperboard or corrugated fiberboard.

So as illustrated, you should lightly cut the material only enough to pierce through the surface. If this goes against the grain, this should provide a clean cut in which to fold. Avoid cutting anywhere near halfway through or you may experience frailty in the material. When cutting one side, keep in mind that these are the sides that face outwards. If you are cutting corrugated fiberboard you should be safe cutting through one linerboard and between the dips in the flute. Anyways, folding the material after it is cut should be relatively easy, as it will follow the path of least resistance (where you have just cut). You may tape along the edge to strengthen the edges afterwards if you feel it’s needed.

Curling the cardboard follows what was outlined above three more times and folding the construction inwards in on itself. You can do this once to secure a ledge or mirror it to create a support that’s quite strong on the outside. There are ways to reinforce the weakpoints and you can guess by looking at the photos above how to do so. As this post has become quite long, I’ll explain what I have done to reinforce structures in a future post.

 

The paper prototyping series

Part I – Paper prototyping

Part II – Knowing your medium

Part III – Repurposing or following purpose

Part IV – Differences in the purpose approaches

Part V – Reinforcements and affordances

Part VI – Final thoughts on construction

Part VII – Chair epilogue

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