Concept design is the initial big picture. It shows us what problems the product will solve, how it will solve them, and what it will feel like as it is solving them. It calls on us to consider sweeping ideas and all the various possibilities. In concept design lies the very soul of innovation. Broad outlines of function and form are articulated, it includes the design of interactions, experiences, processes and strategies. It involves an understanding of people's needs - and how to meet them with products, services, & processes. Common artifacts of conceptual design are sketches, models, and prototypes.
A Prototype is the construction of simplified and incomplete model of a design to explore ideas, elaborate requirements, refine specifications, and test/validate functionality. They allow you to explore abstract concepts or ideas and animate or bring them to life. They elaborate requirements by illustrating what is necessary to put an idea into action.
A working prototype can be shown to potential users and stakeholders to observe how they interact with it in order to validate & test assumptions, interaction models, and information architecture. Ultimately they provide valuable feedback on the likely success of a design, and can high-light potential issues before resources are committed to design & development.
My submission for the design challenge from Unicef and ARM for wearable and sensor technology that serve people in resource constrained environments, was a solution to encourage regular hand-washing and transfer of good hygiene practice using gameification techniques to affect behavior change and specific algorithms to detect and measure hand wash movements.
Using concept design I was able to create prototypes of the wearable device both in terms of testing the game interaction (Simon says game using LED lights) and formulating the hand washing algorithm by using a 3-axis sensor and measuring the relative changes in x,y,z values as users wash their hands following the recommended 6 step process. I then created a mock-up of the full solution including the digital components; mobile app interface to capture and view data, and the interactive hand wash game to bring a fun element to the hand washing experience .
This allowed me to illustrate the concept and test my assumptions and get feedback on the likely success of the design.