I think it goes something like this:
I have an idea.
Tools: shower, running shoes, a friend and/or hot chocolate
I sketch out the idea.
Tools: pencil, notebook, ipad, paper53, cosmonaut
I share that idea with a small group of people
Tools: more hot chocolate
This cup is from the folks at One Girl Cookies in Dumbo
I share that idea with a larger group of people
Tools: a blog, camera (usually just use my phone)
Then, I share the idea with people in my making environments
Tools: github, flickr
I read and write - A lot. I tend to research everywhere from blogs to books, to print articles. I ask experts and novices a like to talk to me.
Tools: New York Public Library, DML, goodreads, the interwebs
What I am reading now: Creative Confidence by the Kelley Brothers. Check it out!
Then I am like omgossssh I have so many things I need to get organized, so I put all of my tools into some sort of list, or spark file.
Tools: Evernote, etherpad , Google Docs
By this time I realize that I want to make something so that people can have a proof of concept to play around with, so I start to make something interactive.
Tools: POP, Coda2, Cyberduck, Webmaker, Appmaker, Adobe Illustrator, etc.
Then I go into a rapid cycle of user testing -> iterating -> usertesting
Tools: redpen for mockups, user testing websites, Hive meetups, minigroups, groupme, Webmaker demos, more hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.
At this point I kind of move into a decision making phase. This is a whole other set of operations, however I now have a lot of tools at my disposal to make that decision. By now, I have now developed a cohort of people who I am working with to develop the prototype - whether that be user testers, feedbackers or active co-developers.
I should note here that a) this whole process relies heavily on hot chocolate - my current favorite can be found by visiting the Little Sweet Cafe just off of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and b) my process is all about prototyping in the open. I find that prototyping by, for and with people makes my ideas stronger and helps me to fail faster so that I can pick myself up and iterate with more knowledge, more often. I'd love to hear what ways YOU prototype.