Cultural Probes – Yukie Miyazaki

The cultural probes I came up with were for my friend who makes earrings out of clay. 

The cultural probes were made with the intention of getting to know the creative practitioner a little bit better, and also to better understand the creative process that the practitioner goes through as she creates her earrings, with a slight focus on how/where she gets her inspiration for the different patterns and designs that she comes up with.

Questions from the question booklet.

Activities from the activity booklet.

She mentions that her workspace is “always a mess”. Her love for nature is also emphasised through her choice of pattern, but definitely doing her craft in nature may not be the most feasible at the moment.

Gave us the idea for our story world, where people are crafting on the train. Also noted is the need for a flat surface.

Cultural Probes – Charmaine and Stephanie

After much discussion, Charmaine and I decided to focus on the TCM practice as we felt that it was a gap that is being overlooked by the younger generation. However, we both saw the value in preserving this practice as our Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong noted that as our population ages, TCM will potentially be able to meet the healthcare needs of the elderly as they tend to fuse Western and Eastern medical care. Our Health Ministry has also allocated extra funding to develop and support the Traditional Chinese Medicine sector and this includes S$5 million over the next five years for the TCM Research Grant. 

This also led us to think about how we can make TCM more appealing to the younger generation as Derrick had also pointed out that the younger generation generally only seeks TCM for sports injuries like sprains.

Cultural Probe Kit

Cultural Probes:
We designed a cultural probe and requested the help of Dr Soh to complete it. The probe consists of two “worksheets” for Dr Soh to fill in. One is focused specifically on him as a TCM practitioner and the services that he provides, tools he needs for his practice and his pain points. The other one focuses on the home visit patients and consists of questions that document the services that he provides for home visit patients, tools required and their pain points as well as any additional comments and feedback that he has received from them. 

In addition, we provided an MRT map and stickers, asking him to mark out the area of his patients’ place where he has to travel to as well as the clinic that he practices in to see how much he had to travel.

Lastly, a pen was provided as well as a notepad for additional notes that he has with regards to his practice.

Dr Soh noted that the services provided in the patient’s home is limited as compared to the services in the clinic. He said that internal treatment, which refers to something that is similar to a usual visit to a doctor to diagnose ailments for the stomach or respiratory system or sicknesses such as flu, fevers is limited for home visits as the practitioner is unable to carry all the medications that can range up to 60-70 different types.

Pain Points:
The pain points Dr Soh wrote was mainly for the house visits as he mentioned that generally practicing TCM in the clinic itself is conducive as everything is at reach. However, for house visits, due to limited bag space, he could only limit the tools to bring along based on patients’ description of their illnesses to him prior to their appointment through phone calls or Whatsapp. Because there is no standard TCM bag, it sometimes can be disorganized and troublesome to have so many tools contained in his personal bag pack with limited slots that are catered to TCM tools. 
His bag was often heavy. He also talked about how certain treatments are limited such as the electrolysis machines stimulation due to difficulties in finding a power source that is of reach to the area where he carries out the treatment during house visits

He noted that his patients generally did not have any complaints about receiving treatment at home, and services like acupuncture and cupping is done on the patient’s bed. Dr Soh said that these patients are in their own homes and hence are in an environment that they are already familiar and comfortable with.

Our thoughts and findings:
We felt that there is definitely a gap that is overlooked for TCM practitioners. Photographers have special bags that are designed for their convenience and comfort, why do TCM practitioners not have that? This need was something that we can potentially meet if we could make a portable TCM studio for these TCM practitioners. Furthermore, in order to elevate the patient’s treatment experience, we wanted to not just increase their comfort during this treatment process, but rather create an environment that is something similar to a spa or massage experience to elevate the status of TCM as just an Eastern medical practice. 

Exploring Practitioners + Cultural Probes – Design and Findings – Loke Ting Wei

Exploring Practitioners 1: Key Making – Loke Ting Wei

Creative Practice:

The key maker duplicate keys for her customers by using a key machine and other tools.

Key Making Process Documentation:

Parts of a key machine:

  • An electric motor to turn the cutting wheel
  • A cutting wheel
  • A vice to hold the key blank
  • A vice to hold the original key
  • A guide
  • A key alignment device

After observing and understanding from the key maker, I learnt about how key machines work. The key machine is used to duplicate a key, where an original key is inserted into the vice that is near the guide and a key blank is inserted in the vice near the cutting wheel. The alignment device, which is two bars connected, is used to make sure the original key and key blank always remain the same distance apart. The keys are horizontally aligned in the vices to be fixed in the same place in relation to the cutting wheel and guide. When the machine is on, the motor spins the cutting wheel. Then, the key maker will trace the guide along the cuts of the original key. The key blank will be dragged along the cutting wheel, duplicating the cuts on the original. When all the cuts are made, the process is finished.

After the key is cut, the key maker cuts off the excess part of the key if it is too long with a key cutting plier. Then, she removes the burrs by buffing the key with a manual metal handheld buffer. Finally, the brand of the key is imprinted onto the key by knocking into the metal with a hammer.

Workplace Documentation:

The workstation is small, but sufficient for the skilled key maker. With the small surface area, she had ample space to complete her key making process. A small table is used, with the key machine and the essential tools beside it.


Original key

Key blank

Key machine

Key cutting plier

Metal buffer

Brand stamp


Pain Points and Design Ideas:

I observed that the key maker buffed the key with a physical metal buff, unlike more modern machines which has a rotary wire brush attached onto the key machine itself, powered by the motor. As such, the physical metal buff would require more effort, and may result in less evenness and smoothness of the key. Hence, upgrading the machine to one with an attached rotary wire brush would be good.

I also realise that the key maker kept looking at the guide and the original key to make sure that the key blank is cut properly. She is an elderly auntie who wears glasses; and the daily activity of scrutinising at the key would be tiring for her eyes. Furthermore, I realise that the lighting of the shop is not particularly bright. Hence, I would suggest building a magnifying glass, with led lights at the rim of it, above the original key and guide so as to provide her a better view of it. With that, it would be less straining for her eyes.

I also understand that the cutting wheel would become smaller and thicker over time, leading to less accurate key duplicates. Hence, the key maker would need to change the cutting wheel when that happens.

Other than that, I learnt that the accuracy of the key duplicate also depends on the quality of the original key itself. If the original key is already worn, then the duplicate itself would not be accurate. Copies of copies also would not work well. Hence, my suggestion would be to improve the process from the key user’s side. The solution would be to duplicate the original key with a reliable key maker when it is new. With that, even if it is worn, there would still be a form of the original key existing for reference. Another solution would be to create a “duplicate” the key with a 3D printing machine, which can print metal. That would be the future to key making.

Exploring Practitioners 2: Tailoring – Loke Ting Wei

Creative Practice: I approached a tailor near my house who makes and alters clothes. When I approached her, she was altering a skirt for a customer who wants it to be shorter by half an inch.

Tailoring Process Documentation:

The tailor first measures the length that need to be cut away and altered with a measuring tape, as requested by the customer. Then, she marks the distance with a chalk. She then irons the skirt. After ironing, she cuts away the excess fabric from the garment with a scissors. Next she uses the overlock stitch on her sewing machine to serge the edge of the skirt. Next, she folds the end of the skirt to the new length and secure it with pins. The tailor then irons the new folding line for the skirt with an iron and after spraying water. She then blind stitches the hem. This is done by catching just 1 to 2 threads from the skirt material every time she brings the needle in and out of the hem. She continues blind stitching until the hem is sewn up. The altering process for the skirt is then complete.

Blind stitching

Workplace Documentation:

The workplace consist of mainly three working surfaces – a table where she measures the fabric, marks the fabric with chalk and cut it, another table where the sewing machine is at, and the ironing board. The ironing board is very close to the first table, which makes it convenient for her. The first table is sufficiently big enough for her to carry out her tasks. For the sewing machine table, I realise that there are fruits beside the machine, which I assume is her midday snack while she goes on with her sewing tasks. The mix of food and sewing machines make the area a little cluttered. Hence, I would suggest having a built-in cabinet or shelf on the wall to hold the food or snacks, to prevent clutter. The whole shop is also brightly lit with many lights and mirrors.


Fabric scissors

Measure Tape


Pins and Pin cushions

Iron and water sprayer

Thimble and threader



Sewing Machine

Seam ripper


Pain Points:

Seeing how time-consuming the process of blind stitching by hand is, I asked the tailor why she does not want to buy a machine that can do blind stitching to save the time and effort. In response, she said that blind stitching by machine is not without its flaws as it is very easy to go wrong and if so, she would have to restart every time it happens. Hence, she prefers hand sewing the blind stitch.

She knows her struggles very well, and makes her sewing process as comfortable as possible. For instance, she told me that she places mirrors and many lights within her shop so that it will be brightly lit and would prevent her eyes from getting tired.

However, she talked about how she had many orders to finish every day, for example 3 pieces of clothing in a short span of 2 hours. As such, she also has many orders which she hangs on the wall of the shop, along with post-it notes stating the orders she had in the day. She labels the different bags of orders with masking tape. Hence, I feel that it can be rather messy and disorganised at times. It can perhaps be improved with a proper storage cabinet with cubicles and proper labels made with whiteboard material so that she can write with erasable markers and save on the masking tape. She could also use a touch function enabled screen to write down her orders and categorise them with colour coding and dates to improve from post-its which can be messy and easily lost in the mess.

Exploring Practitioners 3: Baking – Loke Ting Wei

Creative Practice: I approached a friend who loves to bake. Some of the things she bakes are lava cakes, pancakes, muffins, cupcakes and brownies.

Baking Process Documentation:

Firstly, she preheat the oven. Then, she measures the correct amount of chocolate, then melt it by double boiling it. While waiting for the chocolate to melt, she measures the correct amount of butter and sugar, and creams the butter and sugar. However, that day, she forgot to take out the butter from the fridge to soften beforehand. Hence, she had to spend more time cutting and smearing the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl to let it soften faster. As such, she did that first before proceeding to melt the chocolate midway.

In addition, as she was too caught up with softening and creaming the butter and sugar, she was not looking at the chocolate melting. As a result, as there was no room for hot air in the pot below to escape, the temperature started getting too hot and the boiling water was bubbling and bordering the edge of the pot. Luckily, her family member who was in the kitchen told her. Forgetting that it was hot for a moment, she touched the melting bowl with her bare hands and almost got scalded. Then, I helped her lower down the fire.

After settling that and letting the chocolate to continue melt, she proceeded to resume with creaming the butter and sugar. She then added the eggs into it. In the process of breaking the eggs, she accidentally knocked too hard against the table and leaked a little of the egg white all over the floor. She then wiped it away.

She then takes out the chocolate melting bowl away from the fire to cool when it is fully melted with clumps. Then, she returns to beating the mixture of eggs, butter and sugar with the spatula. Next, she proceeded to measure the flour on the weighing scale, and adds the flour and a pinch of salt into the mixture.

She then fold the chocolate into the mixture of flour, salt, butter and sugar. This is done by slowly pouring the chocolate, as we need to be careful not to cook the eggs with the heat from the chocolate. After ensuring that there are no clumps and the mixture is relatively smooth, she pours the mixture into the ramekins, and puts it in the oven to bake for 11 minutes.

Sequence of steps in pictures:

After that, she keeps the excess mixture into a disposable storage container for the next few bakes. After the lava cake is done, she takes it out of the oven and places a scoop of ice cream on top of it.

Workplace Documentation:

The workplace consists of 4 surfaces – the sink, the stove, the area beside the stove which she uses to weigh chocolate and beat eggs into the mixture, and another surface (bigger than the previous) which she uses to weigh flour, butter and to beat mixtures as well. When asked why she uses two different surfaces when she could have used one, especially when she detests creating a mess so much, she said she did not think too much.

At the stage of breaking the eggs into the mixture, she had to go to and fro from the table surface to the bin (which is around 5 steps away) to throw the egg shells, then back to the table surface, and finally after doing so 4 times for cracking 4 eggs, she goes to the sink to wash her hands. Hence, the inconvenience could be prevent if she had moved the bin nearer or throw the egg shells into a temporary bag.



Mixing bowl

Silicon spatula

Melting bowl


Weighing machine

Measuring cup

Ice cream scoop


Disposable storage box

Pain Points:

The pain points were that the area to work with were too small, plus the sink, bin and table top is far away from one another. As she likes to be clean and wash her hands after every step, for example she does not want to touch things with gooey egg-y hands, she has to walk to the sink every time, and go back to the working surface. Also, one of her main concerns were needing to wash the tools after use. Hence, it would be good if we can implement a self-cleaning device or tools for her. Because she does not want to wash the electric standing mixer, she does not use it; but said she would use it if it can self-clean somehow. Using the electric mixer would yield more satisfying results as the mixture would be less clumpy and smoother.

As she usually bakes alone, and there are two separate stations to look after (the stove and the table top where she mixes stuff), it is easy to neglect the stove and this can be dangerous, such as when the boiling water almost bubbles over, and when in a moment of forgetting it is hot, she almost got scalded by touching the melting bowl with her bare hands.

Hence, I would suggest having an app with a voice assistant that can track each step of the baking process, especially when many steps are ongoing at the same time. For example, the app will remind her to use a medium fire to heat up the chocolate at the start, and after 3 minutes, it will remind her to turn it down to a smaller fire, and after 10 mins, it will remind her to stir the chocolate and check if it is done. This can be good prompts when she is busy with creaming butter and sugar at another table surface which is a distance away. A temperature strip could also be stuck onto the melting bowl to remind her that it is hot so she does not lift it with her bare hands.

Cultural Probe: Design and Findings – Loke Ting Wei

I did a cultural probe with my friend who is a baker, along with two other friends who bakes cupcakes, muffins and lava cakes. I prepared a set of cultural probes to ask them, and by discussing with them and bouncing off ideas, we came up with solutions to target the problems experienced.

Contents + Rationale, Findings (which includes the problems faced) and proposed solutions:

Cultural Probe

Please record down:

  1. Process of making lava cake

Activities to do:

  1. Record down in your long every 5-minute periods (after every 5 minutes, what are the changes?)
    1. Process of making lava cake
    2. Struggles involved

Findings: Some of the practitioners did not follow the 5-minute periods, but instead record accordingly with each step, which is fine as well. From their steps and the struggles they wrote down, their feedback was that tools are all over the place in the kitchen, dirtying the surface of the table top and having to refer to the recipe on the phone repeatedly while hands are dirty.

Suggestion: Touchable screen on the kitchen wall to record and display recipes. Space expansion with extendable surfaces, eg. that covers the sink and acts as an extra surface. Tools organiser in the kitchen cabinet, categorised according to uses. (eg. spatulas all together)

2. What are the:

  • Things that you think could be incorporated into your lava cake?
  • Things that you would hate to be in your lava cake?
  • Findings: The practitioners said they would decorate the cake with more ingredients if they could afford more time and effort. Extra toppings include confectionary sugar, icing sugar, sugar heart shapes, m&ms, cookies and chocolate shavings.

    Suggestion: A self-decorator machine that helps them to finish off the product with nice toppings. Upon the push of a button specifying the design, and keying the size of the cake, the machine would do it for them.

    3. Circle the words you would want to incorporate into your lava cake

    • Thai milk tea
    • Green tea
    • Heart shapes
    • Yakult
    • Yogurt
    • Orange, apple, pear
    • Peanuts, walnuts
    • Jelly
    • Sprinkles
    • Bittersweet chocolate
    • Carrot, beetroot
    • M and Ms
    • Gula Melaka
    • Red Velvet mixture
    • Cheese
    • Avocado
    • Salted caramel
    • Cookie batter
    • Oreo crumbs

    • Now, how would you want to incorporate these into your lava cake? How is the baking process and tools used changed?

    Findings: The practitioners chose the ingredients based on their own liking. For instance, one of them only likes chocolate and sweet stuff, not the fruits, while another loves fruits in her cakes. This question attempts to expand the creativity of the practitioner. One of them said she would like to add Thai milk tea in her cake. However, she has not found a way to do it. She would assume that she needs to add Thai milk tea into some sort of mixing agent for it to have the consistency of adequate thickness to make the cake batter.

    Suggestion: Recipe app in which they can try adding different elements to the cake and see how the equation turns out.

    4. Contextual changes that would take place

  • What if you are in a rush? What would you do to speed up your process of baking lava cakes?What are the steps (if any) that you would skip?
  • What are the steps (if any) that you would skip?
  • Findings: All of them wrote that it was almost impossible to skip steps as each step is important. The key is in remembering to do the preparation work beforehand to save time. Eg. take out the butter to soften.

    Suggestion: Task organiser with notification alert. Or a timer that is stuck to the wall so avoid wasting space.

    • If you would have to bake lava cakes for a competition, what additional steps would you take to improve your lava cake?

    Findings: additional decoration, better quality ingredients.

    • If you are making the cake for someone with diabetes, how would you change your ingredients and how would that affect your baking process?

    Findings: lessen the sugar, change normal chocolate to dark chocolate, add more fruits, use fruit juices and natural sweetness to replace sugar.

    Suggestion: A sugar level indicator. This is rather futuristic as the available solutions now is to use Benedict’s solution to test for simple sugars, such as glucose. It is a clear blue solution of sodium and copper salts. In the presence of simple sugars, the blue solution changes color to green, yellow, and brick-red, depending on the amount of sugar. However, this solution is unable to test for sucrose, which is commonly used in baking. Furthermore, using chemicals while preparing food is dangerous. Hence, perhaps the only way is to test the sugar level through tasting and trial and error each time. The practitioners can record down the level of sweetness along with the amount of sugar used each time and place it on the kitchen wall. A touchable screen on the wall would be even more convenient.

    • If you have to make it for a child, how would you have done it differently and how does that affect your baking process and tools used?

    Findings: add more decorative and colourful toppings for the child

    • If you have to teach the child how to bake, how would you have done it?

    Findings: explain more and guide the child step by step, holding his or her hand if necessary.

    Suggestion: Augmented reality with a phone camera on top of the child’s hands and bowl. The child would have to follow the markings on the screen to achieve the correct results.

    • If you have to keep the kitchen surfaces with no dirt or spillage at all, how would you have done it? (eg. with newspaper or mat?)

    Findings: plastic sheets would be good, although not environmental friendly

    Suggestion: self-cleaning mat made of nano coating that repels water, oil and dirt. Eg. titanium dioxide nanoparticle coating or other hydrophobic products

    • Games:
      • Cut the butter (2 slices) as fast as you can. What is your record breaking score? (I will record)

    Findings: With the rush for time, they realise that the ways they handle this process may not be the most efficient. One of them realise that their butter was too soft and sticks to the knife. Another one did not soften the butter beforehand and hence took more effort and time to cut them with a spatula. The other one had a proper surface with softened butter and cut the butter the fastest.

    • Pour the flour in the mixture without any spillage.

    Findings: Accidental spillages often happen.

    • Separate the egg yolk from the white as fast as you can.

    Findings: Most do not do this due to the hassle.

    Suggestion: Suck the egg yolk out from the egg white using a suction bottle.

    • Scoop the batter into the ramekins as fast as possible.

    Findings: One uses an ice cream scoop, the other two uses spoons. They find it troublesome to accurately place it in the tins or ramekins without dripping over the edge. Using a scoop will also cause wastage as it is difficult to scoop out the excess.

    Suggestion: A piping bag to suck up the batter and place it accurately into the tin or ramekin.

    Exploring Practitioners + Cultural Probes – Boo Shangyou

    I’m combining all my findings (Exploring Practitioners + Cultural Probes) together as they seem to overlap in areas and I don’t want to repeat any information! For my cultural probes, I gave my practitioners a set of questions and tasks to complete, as you will see listed down below.

    Practitioner #1: ARTIST

    Q: Take photos of your workspace

    Q: Take photos of your work tools

    Q: What are your two favourite colours?

    – Black and White

    Q: Make a sketch using those two colours

    Q: Share pictures of some of your favourite art

    Q: What inspires your art?

    – Real life, visions, other works from artists, movies and video games

    Q: Create an art piece and share your in-progress photos

    Q: What do you think could improve your art?

    – Practice. It’s always about practice.

    Q: What hinders your art creation process?

    – Lack of inspiration or understanding of how to translate ideas onto paper.

    – Not enough research or observation of real life (if i’m creating life-like art).

    Q: Why do I create art?

    – As a form of expression that I don’t have words for.

    – Therapeutic

    Practitioner #2: FILM PRODUCER

    Q: Take photos of your workspace & work tools

    Q: How would you describe your job?

    – Purposeful, people matter and creative

    Q: Take 1 photo a day of anything that interests you (for a week)

    Day 1 (Art work)

    Day 2

    Day 3

    Day 4 (Screenshot of Avril Lavigne’s new music video)

    Day 5 (Art Work)

    Day 6

    Day 7

    Q: Who or what inspires you to be a film producer?

    – I don’t think i ever grew up wanting to be a film producer. It was a series of open doors that led me to where and what I’m doing today. It’s also something that I grew to enjoy and love.

    – Seeing how my role gives me the opportunity to bring people together and connect with individuals personally, brings me joy.

    Q:What is the most important skill you possess that helps you with your job? 

    – Practicing Grace. It’s something that I’ve learnt to be more conscious of over the years. Working with creatives can be painful because everyone wants to express their individuality, thoughts and opinions throughthe works they create. The heart and skill needs to work hand-in-hand to correct people with love and respect, otherwise people will be hurt in the process.

    Q: Share some pictures of one of your film sets that you’ve worked on.

    Q: What might improve your job?

    – More space to push boundaries and the upper management having a greater understanding of the creative process.

    Q: What hinders your job?

    – Nothing that i can think of at the moment. Really happy with it.

    Q: What tool might be helpful in making your job better/easier?

    – A bigger desk.

    Practitioner #3: PRO GAMER (Or rather, ex-pro gamer, as she used to represent Singapore in Command & Conquer world tournaments, but not anymore.)

    – Take photos of your workspace & work tools

    Q: How would you describe being/having been a pro gamer?

    – It was nerve wrecking, intimidating almost, because no one really took female gamers seriously back then (or they would have an idea about what they should be like). And with everything you put a great deal of investment in, it’s a lot of time spent in a virtual world and away from other things that matter.

    – It taught me how to hold everything with a loose hand and sportsmanship – while I always hope to win, it is not the sole purpose of why I game.

    Q: How would you describe the difference between a pro gamer and a regular/casual gamer?

    – The stakes are a lot lower. As a casual gamer, I enjoy playing more story-driven genres and taking my own time to build a world that I’d love to stay in and not just survive. In competitive, I’m always training myself to click faster, throw myself in all kinds of situations to formulate better response actions to counter my opponents.

    Q: Do you still enjoy video games as a pro gamer?

    – Yes, for sure.

    Q: Why do you play video games competitively?

    – For the challenge, but I rarely do it anymore.

    Q: What improves your ability to game competitively?

    – A lot of practice, understanding of the game and purpose as to why I would even put myself in such a position (it has to be worth my time).

    Q: What hinders your ability to game competitively?

    – Now: Toxic players. It was not like that in the past games I played competitively. Back then, competitive players collaborated with one another to break boundaries together and shared strategies with their opponents to get constructive feedback – So that the gaming community could move forward and learn as a family, even though they knew that they would still compete with one another in competitions or on ranking ladders.

    Q: What might help you become a better pro gamer?

    might help you at your job/hobby?

    – Maybe a new keyboard or headset? But those are wants, not needs.

    Prototype Design (For the Artist):

    Cultural Probes: Design & Findings – Low Jia Yi

    Of the three practitioners I explored, I chose to further understand Baristas.

    Cultural Probe

    To do so, I conducted a cultural probe with 3 people: a barista, an ex-barista, as well as a novice.

    The cultural probe consists of a booklet, as well as a drawer system.

    Cover of Workbook & Instruction Booklet
    Drawer System

    The booklet consists of instructions to follow and questions to answer.

    Page 1 of booklet

    These three questions asked aim to find out the pain points faced from their perspectives.

    Page 2 of booklet

    I think being organized and methodical can aid the completion of most things. Questions 4 and 5 thus aims to test my hypothesis out.

    Paper cut outs labelled with name of tools needed
    Scenario for question 5


    Question 1 – Difficulties Faced:

    • Too many steps
    • There’s no fixed ‘thing’ to follow eg. how hard to press the coffee grinds or how long to froth the milk
    • Latte art is so hard!

    Question 2 – Ideas to simplify process:

    • Make everything automatic
    • Have everything be super precise so the measurements and duration can be fixed and stuff

    Question 3 – Missing Steps:

    • Sometimes I press the button on the coffee grinder before remembering that I forgotten to take the portafilter
    • If it’s very busy, usually I will miss out either distributing the coffee grinds or tampering them
    • No latte art

    Question 4 – Disorganized scenario:

    • Can be a bit confusing I guess
    • Quite normal, it is like when I make coffee now, so I don’t see anything wrong with it

    Question 5 – Organized scenario:

    • I think it is slightly more efficient
    • Makes me not forget steps
    • Helps me remember what the next step is


    With those findings in mind, I sketched out an initial idea for making coffee making more portable and more organized, such that barista-made coffee can be more accessible for everyone.

    Sketch of idea

    Cultural Probes: Designs & Findings – Vashon Tnee

    Here are my documentation and findings with the cultural probe I made in order to explore some professions that I was interested in.

    My Cultural Probe

    The Cultural Probe

    My cultural probe is a simple task sheet for the participant to fill in during their free time, and I did not make it too lengthy for the sake of brevity and due to time constraints as a limitation over the past two weeks.

    With the task sheet, I was able to mass e-mail a couple people hailing from different professions. Unfortunately, reaching out to folks on LinkedIn and asking them to reply quickly tends to be generally more difficult.

    Designing the Probe

    With regards to the design of the probe, I decided on the first task to allow me to glean some insight with regards to how people viewed their profession with adjectives. They could use one of the words and write a six-word story to describe their job.

    For the second task, I wanted to be a little more cunning to add in an ideation maker for the second task to see how they would design something in relation to our module’s theme.


    As a whole, the goal that my probe was set to achieve was a simple feedback on terms that the professionals describe their job and their creative thoughts on the tools they would like to see in the future to make their tasks easier.


    Vanessa, being as kind as always, was able to send back her probe to me for me to document this at least in time for our submission deadline. 

    Things that I Learnt

    Vanessa really enjoys her job, she even took to circling more terms on the cues I gave which all point towards a positive outlook. The terms she also used can be described as fun, interactive and enjoyable. Needless to say, her design for the future, is also very whimsical and I really enjoyed that as I wanted to make something that would be fun to use as well, almost like a game for them. 

    When I asked her to explain her drawing, she reminded me about the weeds that she hates, and how her suit has a vacuum that sucks up the weeds with gusto so that it no longer has to bother her and her team. 

    I was inspired by this, and perhaps in future iterations, I could also use this design to potentially make something out of it!

    However, that being said, I am still discussing with my group with regards to all of the feedback and useful research that we have collected on which would be the best profession for us to work on. I cannot wait to explore further our ideas and start making awesome creations with our group!

    Cultural Probe: Design & Findings – Jhnn Ymn

    With the art therapy practitioner we’d interacted with, our group decided to develop several prompts that were related to art-making and ideas related to the elderly.

    Within our group, we each came up with an activity related to art-making and the elderly. These centred around abstract visualisation, word association, and photography. 

    Design Probe: Workbook with 3 activities, each self-recorded

    • Goal: To investigate attitudes towards art therapy for the elderly as a creative practice and ageing from the perspectives of an art therapist and general populace
    1. Visualisation of practice
      1. Through the abstraction of your emotions, experiences, influences, and relationships to wider contexts, represent your practice through colour, line, shape, pattern, or any combination of visual elements – as long as you do not use written words. You may use any number of pages you wish.
      2. On a separate page from your visualisation, write out and document the thought processes behind your visualisation.
    2. Mental model of ageing and the elderly
      1. You are given a list of 7 words below. Based on your own interpretation and understanding of their meanings, implications and/or relationship(s), create one or more word trees using the words as prompts. You should come up with at least 10 other words to create your word tree(s), excluding the given prompts. You may use any number of pages you wish.
        1. Elderly
        2. Death
        3. Ageing
        4. Health
        5. Mobility
        6. Values
        7. Stereotypes
    3. Imagine that you are an elderly person.
      1. Take 2 photographs of objects or elements around you that were integrated to accommodate the various needs of the elderly. (e.g. ramps and railings for the elderly who are unable to navigate up the stairs)
      2. Take 3 photographs of everyday things or features around you that you feel might pose a problem to the elderly in any way.

    These activities were then compiled into a workbook form, which was provided to a practitioner.

    Cultural Probe: Design and Findings – Tracy Leong

    After exploring three practitioners, I decided to design a probe with regard to painting. Similar to Zi Lin, I was also inspired by the recent news of NUS undergraduate who made tools for the visually impaired to cook. 

    Since painting is such a visual activity, I keen to invent a tool to make it more accessible to the visually impaired. During my practitioner observation, my friend always made sure to mix all her paints first. She was able to easily pick out the paint tubes she needed, and squeeze the right amount of paint before swatching them to test. This task might seem simple, but to a blind person, it could be of utmost difficulty. Hence, I looked into producing a color mixing kit.

    Contents + Rationale

    The contents of my kit: paper, palette, paintbrushes, a color recipe card, paint tubes. Not included in the picture: blindfold and instruction card.

    In order to make it easier for the visually impaired to identify the color of individual paint tubes, I wanted to label the tubes with braille. However, for obvious reasons (1. I don’t know braille 2. I don’t know people who read braille), I decided to use a embossing tool to label the tubes. Ideally, however, the tubes would be labelled with both the letters and braille.

    This made the labels more textured and would allow for people to read it, whether or not they knew how to read braille. By running your fingers over the labels, you could make out what word it was.

    As mentioned previously, mixing paints is an integral part of the painting process. However, if one is blind or visually impaired, they may find it difficult to tell how much paint they need for a certain color. Hence, I came up with a color recipe card that uses the same concept as the labeling of tubes to guide painters in mixing their paints.

    Color recipe card! Each blob of blue tack represents a ‘unit’ of paint.
    For example, in order to mix grey, you need two parts white to one part black. 

    Once more, this would ideally be labeled with braille as well! Following this recipe card, the painter would be able to know the proportions of paint to use in order to make the necessary color.

    Accompanying my kit, is this instruction card. 

    Experience with Probes

    The result of one participant. Grey and orange done relatively well, but purple…???? question mark.

    Unfortunately, I was unable to meet up with the original practitioner to get her to test out my kit. However, I did get other people to try it out! Here are some of my findings.

    1) Describe your overall experience in mixing paints blind.

    • “Immediately felt ‘crippled’, totally not used to painting without sight! I felt a lot of hesitation.”
    • “I thought that it was going to be a lot messier, but I think I did pretty well. At least the paint ended up on the palette and the colors look alright.”

    2) Were the raised labels and recipe card useful to you?

    • “I liked the idea of having a ‘recipe card’. The proportions helped me estimate how much paint I needed from each tube to produce the correct color. But it was hard to gauge how much I was squeezing out from the tube since I couldn’t see – I can only gauge from my strength.”
    • “The labels helped, but definitely took a lot of time and focus in feeling around it to figure out what color the tube of paint was. I had to touch and feel each and every tube at least twice before I was confident that they were the colors I needed.”
    • “The recipe card was useful, but I think I spent a lot of time on it. I think it would be better if there was a line separating the ‘resulting color’ (i.e purple, orange, grey) from the ‘recipe’. Because after awhile, I wasn’t sure what I was feeling anymore. Had to use a lot of brain power!!! But I can see how braille or embossed tubes of paint would help with visually impaired people.”

    3) What difficulties did you face in completing the task?

    • “Squeezing all the paint into the same place on the palette and mixing them together!”
    • “Gauging whether or not my ‘units’ of paint were equal. For example, I had to use one part red, one part blue and two parts white to produce purple. But I think my one part red was bigger than my one part of blue, and my white was definitely not two parts. So the resulting colour was super off.”

    Personal Thoughts

    Creating this kit was incredibly fun, and it was exciting to see the different responses from the people who used my kit! I think it’s difficult to try and control subjective factors such as how much ‘one part’ or ‘two part’ of paints means to each person – as it differs from person to person. Perhaps this is something that can be looked into, or left to the individual’s intuition. I was also thinking of a similar recipe card to aid those with color blindness. Granted, the card would not need to be textured as color blind people can still see. However, it could showcase different colors, along with verbal descriptions, so that color blind artists can learn to recognize the subtleties in the different hues and shades of color. And if they don’t know what color something is, they would be able to match it to the color recipe card to figure it out. Different types of color blindness would also warrant different types of color recipe cards, but perhaps it could reduce the amount of second-guessing color blind artists have to do. 

    Cultural Probes: Design & Findings – Kaitlyn

    My group decided to create cultural probes based on art therapy for the elderly.

    Our cultural probe: an activity booklet accompanied with
    drawing / writing materials (pens, pencils and colour pencils)

    Goal: To investigate attitudes towards art therapy for the elderly as a creative practice and ageing from the perspectives of an art therapist and general populace

    We came up with three main activities that required participants to visualise their practices, think about ageing and imagine themselves as the aged.

    One of the participants is Clifford, a silkscreen printer. It would be intriguing to see how another practitioner other than an art therapist visualises ageing and the elderly, an unusual perspective that might be useful when creating a wearable studio suited for our story world (to be told). 

    Clifford, a silkscreen printer’s perspective on art therapy

    Activity 1: Visualise Your Practice

    Interestingly, Clifford’s take on silkscreen printing seems to be similar to an underlying aim of art therapy when he mentioned “translating … an intangible emotion to a physical entity”. The focus in both practices seems to be the process rather than the final product and one that would bring about an emotional response such as happiness. This highlights the importance of art therapists to provide ample means to enhance the therapy process; and of designers to take such into consideration, i.e. to augment their wearables’ holding capacity for a variety of art mediums.

    Activity 2: Ageing

    To help create a rich story world, we sought to understand how general populace in Singapore understand the elderly and ageing.

    Activity 3: Imagine that you are an elderly person.

    Photographs would help us to visualise good or bad designs out there so that we could emulate or avoid. 

    Based on Clifford’s word tree and photographs, his observations largely are centred around physical mobility, where mobility for the elderly can be improved upon or accommodations can be made. Indeed while designing for an older crowd, including middle-aged art therapists and elder therapy clients, it is important to take their physical abilities into account. It would be useless to create a heavy wearable studio even if it can carry many things, when ultimately they cannot lift it up, rendering the design to be useless. 

    Cultural Probe: Design and Findings – Allison Kapps

    My cultural probe was based on a practitioner that was a chef.

    I created a cultural prove that was simple and easy to engage with because it seemed like a lot of the people I wanted to engage were very busy. I create activities that would combine probes into the personality of an individual, their preconceived notions, and their distinct preferences. I asked three people to partake in my probe concepts, one of which was an avid cook. I could not probe the original practitioner since they were not in the country, so I found a replacement I felt could be similar.  


    The activities were provided to participants in person, but they were given privacy and little to no guidance as they were completing them.

    Probe 1

    I used three exercises, one of which was based on Denise Anderson’s exercise for building a personal brand, whereby participants are asked to select 10 words that they feel succinctly describe who they are. This part of the probe was meant to get a good understanding of who the participant is, as well as provide insight into their behaviours.  

    Probe 2

    The second probe was some space delegated to the participant for writing down their favourite recipe. This was cultural probe meant to focus on a  who taught me to cook; a chef. As such, this part of the activity was meant to force participants to reflect on what they favourite type of thing to make is, which is different than simply a favourite type of food. The experience of being a chef is limited to how well and what a person can cook. For this reason, I wanted to make participants write down only what they could cook themselves, and so they had to remember their favourite recipe.

    Probe 3

    The third probe was an easy and fun activity, where participants had to colour in parts of the world they felt had the best food. I had participants do this last so that their reflections here would not influence their decision for their favourite recipe to make. Here, participants had to reflect on where they felt the best food was from. They could base this on their previous experiences, or just on the preconceived notions, they had in any circumstances. Their preferences would provide some insight into the type of food they preferred.


    It seemed that for some participants, the types of recipes that they selected for their favourite tended to come from places that they felt had the best food. While for others, they perhaps felt there was only one dish that they liked and it did not necessarily come from any place in the world they felt had the best food. One girl indicated that she liked cooking a lentil-leek curry, an Indian dish, but she did not pick India as being a place with the best food.

    Image result for lentil leek soup