Course Probes

IMG_8553Probe 1: Pick cards to represent your family. Pick as many or as few as you want

Probe 2: Show how many siblings you have using the quarters. Heads = brother, Tails = sister. Spread them apart to represent your relationships

Probe 3: Show how many people went to your high school (1 Q-Tip = 200 people) You can break the Q-Tips and color them to show characteristics about the school.


The responses to the probes were

Probe 1: King (Spade), Queen (Heart), Ace (Heart), Ace (Spade)
Probe 2: 1 Quarter (tails)
Probe 3: 9 Q-Tips

My design sketch asked people to draw a shirt that reminded them of their childhood. People alternatively could pick from a selection of shirts, but I think drawing one would allow for a greater variety of responses.


The responses to my probe was what I expected. I think this is because my probes were fairly simple, and there was really only one way to interpret each question.

I think the 3rd probe (Q-tips) was the best at revealing something about the person that otherwise wouldn’t have come up in conversation. I think the size and characteristics of someone’s high school tell you a lot about the town and environment they grew up in. My other two probes focused on family, which is a pretty common conversation topic.


What the Probe!!


My Three probes were a pack of Playdough, Three books (each one of a different genre), and 3 different types of cloth (scarves).


Above is the response that I got back that answered that 3 questions from the 3 probes.  But the three questions that I attached to each of the probes were:

  1. Select one fabric that reminds you most of your mother.
  2. Use the Play Dough to make your favorite toy.
  3. Out of the three book which one is more your style when you were a child.


My design is to expand more on the favorite toy. Since I think I got a pretty good idea about my mystery person, but I don’t have a location or a where. So I thought that this design will help me figure that out. The design is to ask what kind of field is more familiar since this person liked to play soccer.


The response to my probes wasn’t really what I expected. And to be honest the answer to my probes could have gone in any direction. Especially the play dough probe. Anything could have come out of that

Out of the three probes, I would say that the Play Dough Probe was best at revealing that person. Becuase with the response from that probe I can kinda expand on that idea. But that doesn’t mean that the other probes weren’t important. Becuase without the other probe answers, I would not have a clue about that person’s childhood. But the Play Dough probe really puts the pieces together.

Course Probes


The first probe I created was something that forced the participant to be creative. I asked the user to create a charm bracelet with at least 3 charms that represented childhood memories.

The response to my first probe (the charm bracelet) was good. The user drew 3 memories from their childhood. The first looks like a fire in the grass, then an experience at the swimming pool where the participant was drowning, and a memory about tetherball.

The next probe I used was using a sheet of tinfoil create a 3-D representation of the participant’s feelings about leaving home. The participant creates a small sculpture of a bed with a blanket.


The last probe I created was a blank piece of paper where I asked the user to draw their childhood bedroom and the neighborhood they grew up in.

The last response was the drawing of their childhood bedroom and the neighborhood they grew up in.


The design sketch I created to remind the participant about their childhood was a pen that had a tetherball attachment that would remind the user about the playful aspects of childhood while working.

Most of the responses aligned with what I expected. The response for the charm bracelet was expected because the instructions for the probe were quite specific. The goal of this probe was to create a probe that prompted the user to choose 3-4 events that were memorable from the user’s childhood. This gives us some insight into what experiences the user found the most memorable. If I were to improve this probe I would ask for a small description of some of the vague events that some of the charms depicted. I was surprised by the outcome from the second probe because it was so open ended. I was curious what the participant would create an actual item or just crumple up the tin foil or just rip the tin foil up. The item that the participant created was extremely intricate if I were to change anything about the probe process I would have asked the user to also include some words that could be associated with these feelings. The last probe’s answers were also expected. It allows us to gain some insight into what the participant’s life was like growing up based on if they shared a room or grew up in a city vs the Suburbs ect.

From the three probes that I created the best at revealing something about the person who completed the probe was the second probe. The participant had the ability to create anything they wanted to represent their feelings from the tin foil. I thought this was the most insightful probe because it allowed the user to physically show an emotion instead of trying to articulate their emotions in words. The option to physically sculpt or form these feeling allows different emotions to be interpreted from the probe results that the user might not even be conscious of.

Cultural Probes


My cultural probes consisted of:

  • a list of various words which the user was to pick four of the word to describe their childhood, and connect them with various lines that they found appropriate
  • a few small containers of Play-Doh that the user was to try and recreate their favorite childhood toy
  • a collection of various gray and blue paint swatches that the user was to pick the one that most resembled the sky where they lived in the summer, and draw a memory on the swatch.
  • The user was also allowed to write down any description for anything they felt necessary


The responses I received were:

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  • The words chosen are “friends” “adventure” “exciting” and “happy”. The lines connecting them are all different, and they also have arrowheads suggesting an order between them.


  • The Play-Doh was molded into what I see as a skateboard


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  • The last response was the swatch chosen with the colors “Air Blue” “Drip” and “Blue Echo”. This was one of the more colorful swatches available. The above drawing was created, accompanied by the description in the second picture.

Design Sketch

My design sketch consists of a skateboard with Bluetooth capabilities, and a pair of augmented reality glasses. These glasses will connect with the skateboard via Bluetooth, and display your chosen city (preferably your childhood city) in the background while you skate around. The connection would allow the glasses to know how fast you are travelling, as well as what tricks you perform along your way.



The first response was pretty much what I expected, as there are only so many words to describe childhood, but the lines were interesting. I did not mention anything about arrows or order, so that was neat. The other two responses were more unexpected. I was expecting more of an indoor toy from the Play-Doh probe. I believe this is because I personally spent a lot of time inside playing with Legos and video games when I was a kid. From the paint swatch probe, I was expecting a memory that involved the sky in some way, such as flying a kite or something along those lines. I also expected them to pick just one color from the swatch, which I see now that isn’t what I specified in the description.

I believe that the third probe, the paint swatches, was the best at revealing something about the person who completed my kit. It made them think back and decide where they consider themselves from, and think about how they viewed the sky when they were younger. This probe also allowed them to display their thinking in a way that they may not be able to express through words. In addition, they were able to choose any memory that they wanted to display on the swatch, which didn’t necessarily have to be connected to the color on the swatch.

Course Probes

My three probes included:

  1. A compass to mark where in the U.S. they were born.
  2. A piece of string with one knot in it that my user had to tie knots in marking if a sibling was older or younger and how close they are to the user.
  3. A blank space for them to draw their childhood animals.

The responses I got for #1 was that she born in the North part of the United States. For #2 my user tied three knots all of them are very close to each other and two are on the younger side, the other one is on the older side. The response for #3 is a drawing of a dog.


My design went off the string that I had my user tie knots into, I thought it was the most interesting result of my probe, so I wanted to create something around that. Basically my design is just using the string as a bracelet. When you squeeze the knot that is associated with a specific sibling it sends them a notification that you are thinking of them. I think it’s a really cool idea because sometimes you are busy and just forget to reach out to your family regularly. Now all you have to do is squeeze a knot to let them know you miss them or you’re just thinking about them.


The responses to my probes were what I expected, probably because my probes were specific in what I was looking for. My favorite and most revealing probe was definitely the probe where I had my user tie knots in a string to represent the age and closeness of their siblings. Sometimes when you are talking to someone you ask them how many siblings you have and if they are older or younger you don’t know how close they are. I also think tying knots in a string is good visual representation of her family because it’s four very close knots. Just by looking at this probe I know she has a pretty big family and they are all close.

Course Probes

This week we are going to experiment with cultural probes that will help us learn about our fellow classmates. For more information and inspiration, please refer to Bill Gaver’s “Design: Cultural Probes” article (linked here and in the course Google drive).

A cultural probe consists of a series of artful prompts and provocations that are used to learn more about a population of study or topic of interest. While interviews are one way of learning about people, probes allow a researcher to gather a different sense of a person that may be difficult to convey in words alone. At a very basic level, it is a series of objects or props that you can ask someone to do something with in order to learn more about their life and everyday experiences. A probe typically consists of a collection of materials and written instruction that direct someone to take a particular action with those materials. The person will perform those actions and give the probe back to you. Upon receiving it, you will learn something about that person.

A good probe balances specificity with interpretation, allowing respondents to respond in a wide range of ways while still producing responses that are interesting to the researcher. To scope the project for the time we have available, I would like you to each create 3 probes that you can give to someone else that will allow you to learn something about their childhood. A good probe will allow someone to interpret the instructions in an open-ended way while providing you with some sense of their childhood that they may not otherwise describe. Some ideas for possible probes that you could do for class:

  • bring a collection of garments and/or fabrics, ask someone to select the one that most reminds them of their mother.
  • print out a map of the world, ask someone to map every location they lived growing up.
  • bring in a collection of odds and ends, ask someone to arrange them in a way that represents their feelings about living away from home
  • bring a paper and pencil and ask someone to draw a picture of their home.
  • bring a book of poetry and ask then to mark a passage that represents how they feel about growing up.
  • Print out a series of pictures of toys and ask someone to rank them from most to least interesting.
  • Bring a series of blue and grey paint swatches and ask someone to pick the one that most resembles the color of the sky where they grew up.

You might find more inspiration at:

To Bring to Class on 10/25
Three probes. You can use one of the ideas I listed above but please come up with the other 2 ideas on your own. Bring all materials necessary for someone to complete your probe.

In Class on 10/25:
We are going spend a bit refining our probes at the beginning of class. Then, we are going to exchange probes with our classmates and each person will spend some time responding to the probes. Then we will give the probes back to their creators and design, reflect on which probes were most effective at eliciting useful responses and we’ll design something based on their response.

Turn in on Friday, 10/27:
Please submit a blog post with the following:

  • an image and description of each of your probes
  • an image and description of each of the responses to your probe
  • an image and description of your design sketch
  • reflect on each of the following questions:
    • Was the response to your probe what you expected? if yes, why do you think that is? if no, what was different?
    • Which of your three probes would you say was the best at revealing something about that person who completed it that you may not have otherwise learned through conversation? Why do you think so?