The Rundown

Mockups Cards (Optional)
Mockups Challenge #1
Mockups Challenge #2

Blank Paper
Colored Pencils/Markers
Optional: Pipe Cleaners

Google Classroom

Reinforced Values

Mockups is a game created by Dr. Liz Gerber, professor at Northwestern University with the help of her students. Mockups can be implemented quickly to give students practice empathizing, ideating, rapid prototyping and pitching. This game tests the limits of rapid prototyping without allowing students time to overthink the problem. Rapid prototyping develops confidence in generating a quick solution to customer problems. Mockups gives students practice through repetitions to master the skills, knowledge and mindset critical for innovation.


The United States economy is dominated by service businesses. These businesses must demonstrate customer-focus by digging deeply into the needs of the customer by showing empathy for the customer and leveraging design processes. Design Thinking is used to innovate new products and services across our society, as it is extremely difficult for businesses to be successful in the twenty-first century without creating a great user experience; customer experiences that are relevant, work well and that people want to use. By playing Mockups you will get repetitions to master the essential mindset, skills and knowledge critical for innovation.


  1. Determine how you will share the activity with your students: Will it be delivered through a virtual conferencing platform or will students complete individually? 
  2. If you have the Mockups game, ensure you understand the game by reading the directions. If you don’t have access to the game, create your own cards by looking at clipart or images that you could share or by using the challenge worksheets provided:
    1. Challenge #1
    2. Challenge #2
    3. Each round will need the following cards/images:
      1. White cards represent the user being designed for.
      2. Gray cards represent the customer need being designed for.
      3. Black cards represent a barrier or constraint that must be considered in the design.
  3. If engaging students virtually, you will need to plan logistics for the activity.
    1. Decide how you will determine groups and allow them to collaborate. (For example, using breakout rooms in Zoom.)
    2. Decide who will act as the User to determine which group creates the best solution to solve the pain of the User – Will it be you each round? Will you rotate through students? (If you use a student, they should not be placed in a breakout session with a group. Whichever method you select, allow groups the opportunity to ask the User questions before they begin ideating in their breakouts.)
    3. Decide how many rounds students will play.
  4. Decide if you would like students to respond to any of the debrief questions after they complete the activity and how they would do so.  
  5. If students are completing individually, post the activity to your classroom platform for students to access and return to you. 


(NOTE: These directions are written for acollaborative sessionwith students virtually– if notcollaborating as a class virtually,you can post pieces of the directions online with theresources listed above.) 

  • Organize students virtually into groups of 4-5 students.
  • Explain that students will be working in groups to practice their design thinking skills. The goal of the game is to rapidly build a prototype using either pipe cleaners, Wikki Stix, paper or the virtual drawing platform that meets the needs of the customer (user) given the constraint described on the card.
  • Inform students the game is meant to mix fun and learning. At the end of the round, it is their User they are trying to satisfy. There are no limitations as to what you can design, as long as it is legal. Encourage your students to let their imagination and creativity run wild for 6 minutes while designing. Remind students: YOU MUST PROTOTYPE RAPIDLY! It is about demonstrating your ideas, not creating a finished product.
  • Inform designers they will give an elevator pitch to sell their idea to the User after the 6-minute design phase. Their elevator pitch must include benefits and attributes for each design.
    • Protip: If you are wanting to really focus in on rapid prototyping, consider shortening this design phase. Also, if you play this often, adjust this design time and see how it impacts the designs that are made.
  • Share the prompt with your students. Using the cards shown above as an example, the prompt would be read as, “Rock Climbers need A Way to Make Friends that is Edible.”
  • Announce who will be playing the role of the User. Allow students to ask questions of the User. Once students are done with questions, break them into their small groups and allow them to design for 6-minutes.
  • After the 6-minute design phase, instruct each designer to take turns pitching their idea to their customer.
    • Protip: Designers not pitching should remain silent while their competing designers are pitching. They cannot add or ask questions. Only the customer can talk to the designer who is pitching.
  • After all designers have pitched, the User will announce which prototype idea(s) they value the most. The User has 1 minute to share (pitch) why they selected the prototype(s) they chose.
    • Protip: Include in directions this is a good time to remind students that value is subjective to the customer. Understanding subjective value is important as we seek to design with a customer-focused mindset.
  • If you wish to play additional rounds, select a new User, a new prompt, then repeat the steps.


Students can complete the debrief on paper by answering the following questions or be put into groups via Zoom to discuss their learnings. 

  • Customer-focused design – empathy for the User you are designing for, and feedback from users, is fundamental to good design.
    • Ask students, “How did empathy inform your design?”, “Did you ask the customer questions to inform your design?”
    • What product details did you include in your pitch? Did you include a name? Price? Estimated cost to make?
  • How does the practice of empathy correlate to the Foundational Values?
  • How did the time constraint of the design phase impact your prototype?
    • How would your prototype be different if there was no time constraint? What kind of constraints affect entrepreneurs in the real world?
  • Did you demonstrate the Foundational Value of Knowledge, by seeking and using the best knowledge to benefit others (your customer)?
  • Did you think about the Foundational Value of Sound Judgment while you were prototyping, by thinking about creating the greatest benefit, while using the least resources?
  • Do you think the prototype(s) you developed demonstrated Win-Win Focus? How did your prototype(s) create real value in society?
  • Ask those who played the role of designers: How different would your prototype have been if you were pitching to me (your facilitator)? What about a different classmate? (Subjective value)
  • Ask those who played the role of Users: What factors went into your decision on which design you selected? Did you consider both the idea and the pitch, or did one way more heavily than the other?
  • What good pitching techniques did you see developers use as they pitched?
  • What good benefits and attributes did you see described for each prototype?
  • Class reflection question: Did we see the Foundational Value of Be Principled being demonstrated today? How? Users – were you principled in which designs you selected? Did you award those who created the most value for you (versus someone who is your friend or some other reason)?

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