Current Prototype

Building upon the learnings from staging 100+ prototypes in 20+ countries it was determined that we’d explore collaborative voting mechanics, encourage movement of teams, and build upon the balance between team space and public space. Four core design principals emerged.

Design Principals

1. The Trace

Where you see your contributions within the story

2. Granting Agency

Moments where your decisions and actions impact the experience

3. Thematic Frame

Designing an emergent space for Sherlock Holmes inspired creations

4. Social movement

Encouraging unexpected collaboration between participants


For additional info on the design principals and the goals of the prototype please click here.

The prototype consists of 4 main steps

Prototype Steps

Running Time 

You’ll need 90 minutes to 120 minutes to run this activity dependent upon the number of participants / teams. Its good to leave a buffer as some times teams might take a little longer on certain sections. PLUS we end the prototype by walking people through the design principals that we use.


  • roll of masking tape for each team
  • roll of brown butcher paper (should roll out to 9 to 12 feet when placed on ground)
  • enough markers so each participant has one
  • 4 to 6 pairs of scissors
  • enough multi colored post-it notes so each participant has their own stack
  • crime investigation form (8.5×11 sheets of white paper that have who, what, where, when, how & why written on them – also write “Please include of a list of the clues you used to shape this mini-crime story)
  • gather a number of objects from Sherlock Holmes’ short stories – select the object and also give some context by taking a section from the story too. PLEASE NOTE that the text from the story should be something that leaves a degree of mystery and can be used as a jumping off point for the stories that teams will create in Step 5 & 6.

Step 0 


Break everyone into teams of 4 or 6 people.  (we’ve found that groups larger than 6 are problematic)

Step 1 


  1. Teams are tasked with finding a place to stage their crime scene.
  2. Teams are asked to collaboratively determine where to tape the outline of a body.

Instead of using tape we’ve also used actors to play the role of the body. Participants place the “bodies” at the crime scene and at the end during the story sharing moments the bodies pantomime and bring the story to life.  Read about how we did it our Lincoln Center prototype.

Estimated time for this phase 7 to 10 minutes 

Step 2


  1. With crime scenes established teams return to tables covered with brown paper or brown paper laying on the ground if its a surface that can be written on.
  2. Each person is asked to empty their pockets and bags. Everyone traces interesting objects.
  3. Participants are asked to select 3 to 4 traced objects. Ideally not there own.
  4. As they select them they are given the opportunity to name those that are nondescript – ie: you see a small outline of a rectangle you can write “phone.”
  5. Participants cut or rip the objects out of the brown paper. Each object should be separated so that the participant is holding 3 or 4 individual objects.
  6. Point out each of the bodies positions (crime scenes) to participants and encourage them to scatter their objects across multiple bodies.
  7. With objects in hand participants are asked to  place them strategically around a body outlined in tape. Encourage participants to place them with purpose so that they add to the story of the crime scene. The only rule is participants can’t places them at their own crime scene it must be another teams.

Estimated time for this phase 7 to 10 minutes depending on number of participants. 

PLEASE NOTE: If outside loose paper will tend to blow away so be prepared with stones and/or tape to help adhere paper objects in place.

Step 3 


  1. Next participants are handed post-it notes and asked to wander around and place descriptive text aka “clues” around the objects that they feel are interesting.  These should be forensic in nature meaning that they can only convey what an object or piece of evidence left behind would. For instance, if you come across a phone you could write on a post-it “Last voice message from a crying ex-girl friend.”
  2. Each descriptive keyword or sentence is written on a post-it and strategically placed around a body at various crime scenes.  Participants are encouraged to place as many as they like. They can add to others and objects can have multiple descriptive post-its.
  3. Once again the only rule is they can’t place them around their own crime scene.

Estimated time for this phase 10 to 15 minutes depending on number of participants. 

Step 4


  1. With descriptive post-its in place everyone gets back into their teams.
  2. Teams are given crime investigation forms to fill out (see material list above)
  3. Teams are also given an object and descriptive text from a Sherlock Holmes short story which they must incorporate into their final mini-crime story .
  4. Teams return to their own crime scenes which are now filled with objects and post-it notes containing “clues”
  5. Together the team works to shape a crime scene narrative about what transpired as well as determining characters and a possible motivation for the crime.

Estimated time for this phase 20 to 25 minutes 



  1. Each team presents their narratives / theories in 2:30 minutes or less to the whole group.  Have teams gather around each body as they listen to the presenting team. Use a visible stop watch (on tablet or phone) so teams can see how much time they have.

It’s a fine balance as you don’t want to rush the teams as we’ve found that this is the payoff and it is important not frustrate participants by cutting the storytelling short. So we often let it run a bit over. 

Share What’s Behind the Design 

Review the Design Principals – we’ll often end the prototype with a review of the design principals it utilizes (the trace, granting agency, thematic frame, social movement). In addition the prototype embraces 21st Century Skills (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication).



If you run the protoptype please make sure to upload your results (photos and crime investigation reports to the Sherlock hackpad so that others can see.  Please place the results on the hackpad page you use for your Meetup.  Thanks!

Here’s a video from a recent prototyping session in Warsaw with over a 100 participants. Special thanks to the Warsaw Learn Do Share team.