Cultural probes (or design probes) is a technique used to inspire ideas in a design process. It serves as a means of gathering inspirational data about people’s lives, values, and thoughts.

  • Use materials such as postcards, journals, cameras, text, and imagery to gather personal insights from participants.
  • Provocations are designed to inspire people to thoughtfully consider personal context and circumstance and respond in unique, creative ways.
  • Materials should be varied and imaginative to elicit responses that are relevant to the design inquiry.
  • Probes are flexible, open-ended, and intentionally subjective, collecting inspirational data to stimulate design imagination.
  • Design probes support empathic understanding through information gathering over a prolonged period, where the researcher cannot be present.
  • Probe kits are combined with other research methods such as observations, site visits, and interviews.
  • Probes should be thoughtful in aesthetic craft, message, and delivery and be created to inspire delight and respect, response, and return.

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