Four years ago, Dr. Liz Gerber was prepping for a lesson on prototyping for her human-centered service design class. Bored with the same activity she had done for five years, she wanted a new way to introduce prototyping to her students. 


Seeking inspiration, Dr. Gerber looked to her game cupboard, where Pictionary caught her eye. After sifting through the Pictionary card deck, she decided to use categories such as people, places and actions, to challenge student teams to build solutions as opposed to drawing them. From there, the first iteration of Mockups was born. 

Over the past four years, Dr. Gerber has played Mockups with her students and members of Design for America to tweak the rules. Tristan Sokol refined the rules and categories in Dr. Gerber’s lab one summer, and Hazel Yun and Brandon Williams developed the categories and graphic design.

The Way it Works:

The most recent version of Mockups is a card deck spilt evenly into three colors: black, white and gray. The white cards represent the user, while the black and gray cards provide two constraints. Players pick one card of each color and have one minute to design a 3D prototyped solution for the user that fits within the two constraints. For example, if you drew the three cards below, you would read the problem this way: Ancient Egyptians need something to make eating more fun that works under water. 


The Mockups card deck is versatile in that it can be played in teams, in silent pairs or alone – all with the intent of flexing your creative muscles.

Key Takeaways from Mockups:

  • Understanding of the power of low-fidelity prototyping to think through and share ideas.
  • Understanding of the role of constraints (i.e. topic, time and materials) in creativity.
  • Understanding of the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Understanding of the player’s role and their teammates’ roles on their team.

If you're interested in purchasing a Mockups card deck, please email Liz Gerber

Segal Design students compete in Mockups bracket tournament using various prototyping materials.