For a book I'd like to write a few words about the history of wireframes. I know that the term is used in 3D modeling, but was it the first usage of the term? Or did industrial designers use actual wire to build models before CAD was available?

The only helpful bit of info on the history of wireframes in UX I found in Whitney Hess' Blog — has anyone another source for this?

2 Answers 2


Here is another source, and despite this being in Wikipedia it gives you the references at the end.


A website wireframe, also known as a page schematic or screen blueprint, is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website. Wireframes are created for the purpose of arranging elements to best accomplish a particular purpose. The purpose is usually being informed by a business objective and a creative idea. The wireframe depicts the page layout or arrangement of the website’s content, including interface elements and navigational systems, and how they work together. The wireframe usually lacks typographic style, color, or graphics, since the main focus lies in functionality, behavior, and priority of content. In other words, it focuses on what a screen does, not what it looks like.

Because it is synonymous with blueprint, you could go much further back into the past to when the blueprint first arrived in architecture.

Another source is this blog, which attempts to show the history:


The term wireframe actually predates its use in web design. Originally, wireframes were used to show 3D objects in Computer Aided Design (CAD). You’d probably recognize the style, used in manufacturing to depict the design of cars without the need for detail, leaving the drawing looking like it's made out of wires - hence, you guessed it, the term ‘wireframe’.

This quote is also on the Wikipedia page, which is where Infragistics got this from.

  • Thank you for the sources. Do you have anything about using actual wires for prototyping by chance? Would love to learn if anyone actually worked with wire.... Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 16:08
  • @benutzerfreund I use interactive wire prototypes created using Axure all the time, so you can quote me :-P I've not come across any external sources which explicitly state wireframes in a sentence about prototypes but this works for my team
    – SteveD
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 16:20

Wire frames have been used since mid XIX in a variety of situations and circumstances: farming, tailoring, pottery, plumbing, construction, architectural models, etc etc...

The concept of "wireframe" in computers started as a representation of 3D objects in CAD/CAM systems.

In this Google Ngram you can see the use of the words "wire frame" and "wireframe"

Google Ngram: wireframe, wire frame

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