Hipster Probe Kit






Hipsters are a subculture of people that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. “Hipsterism” rejects mainstream music, and culturally-ignorant attitudes of consumers. Hipsters have a distinct sense of fashion inspired by vintage, and androgynous styles. E.g. old-school sneakers, tight jeans, and thick-rimmed glasses (source: Urban Dictionary).

The irony about hipster fashion trends is that they eventually become mainstream. In the picture above, all of the labels represent a “mainstream” part of a Hipster, as stereotyped by society (I Am Not A Hipster — Has The Peak Of Hipster Arrived?). But, one of the main points our group was curious about is at what point does their community decide that something has become mainstream? Furthermore, do they have social constructs that affect their friend groups? Are there rivalries to be “more” hipster than other hipsters, or is that taboo? Do they inherently exhibit Hipsterism, or do they sometimes allow themselves to indulge in these off-limit behaviors at home? We have a plethora of questions, but have never had the chance to engage with anyone from this community.


After distributing our kits to our subjects, the hipsters will be able to play with the various items in the bags over the course of a month. The kits will be placed in reusable canvas bags branded with the project logo and will consist of activities, small presents, and documentary materials (all listed below). These elements include sketches, a voice recorder, a visual prompt book, a $15 Visa gift card, a flash drive with our custom song editing software, a disposable camera, and a blank CD.

After the month, the participants will be asked to return their used cameras, sketches, journals, and voice recorder. If they so desire, they may keep the flash drive, sound editing software, and the article of clothing they chose to purchase with their Visa. They are asked to burn a CD of their edited music for our research which they should return with the previously mentioned items.

We will distribute kits in places like Williamsburg, NY, Wicker Park, Chicago, and Mission District, SF. These are the most dominant hipster-neighborhoods in America (source: Urban Dictionary).

To return the kits, participants can either drop off the kit at one of our distribution locations or mail the kit back to us using the return postage included in the bag.


Timeline: the kit should be used over a one month period. Specific items have their own recommended timelines stated below.

Instructions (these will be included on a printout inside the kit):


1. Home Outfits Sketch

This will be a piece of card stock crafted from the inspiration of the What People Think I Do / What I Really Do meme. As such, it will have one column for the user to draw how they think other people think they look at home, and one column to draw how they actually look when they’re at home. It’s designed to be an engaging way for the user to capture how they look at home without feeling the need to “dress up” for an actual photograph. Furthermore, it gives some insight into how they think others perceive them. This will be a one use item. The user can sketch this at any time during the entire experience.


2. Voice Recorder

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Voice Recorder

This will be a handheld audio recorder that could fit into a standard pants pocket. The user will be able to playback what they have recorded with forward and rewind features, as well as stop and pause, but they will not be able to erase their recordings. It’s designed to be a voice diary for the user to use throughout their day. It should be used at least once each day as a “journal entry” and will be recommended to be used to record sporadic thoughts, grocery lists, or observations.

3. Prompt Book


promptbook1 promptbook2

The prompt books is a series of papers with vague and sometimes specific prompts towards questions, opinions, traits, or events that are relevant to the user. These prompts include, “I’m curious about,” “My spirit animal,” “Sketch a song that means something to you…” “The color of a perfect day,” “I’m most similar to…” “When I dream I… When I’m awake I…” and, but not limited to, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?”

This is designed to be a creative and inspirational outlet for the user. It will be recommended to use this as the user feels inspired. They do not have to use it at all, and can choose to start as many prompts as they see fit. If they do choose to use it, it doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting, and can be added to continuously throughout the process so that they can evolve with the user throughout this experience.

4. Oh, the places you’ll go with this app 

The app allows the user to log the places they have been, the activities they did there, and the people they met there. This will tell us the (hopefully) daily events that the users experience. The main screen contains a field that displays the last 100 entries with older ones being available for download from a database by scrolling past the oldest displayed entry. The “-” button under the field allows the hipster to delete entries from their journal that they have highlighted by tapping it in the display field. The “+” button under the field allows the hipster to add a new entry to the journal and switches to the entry screen. On the entry screen is a text field to record the the events and each entry has the current date added to the beginning of the entry. When the entry has met the satisfaction of the hipster they tap the check button and the date and entry are saved to the journal. If however the entry has offended the tastes of the hipster in some fashion they may tap the “X” button to consign the entry draft to the bowels of oblivion. As a final party piece the hipster may tap the camera icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen to add a photo to the entry, pictures may be retaken to the hipsters tastes and more than one may be added to an entry.

All data is stored on a database for research and design purposes. The user will be given a card with a QR code in order to download this app. They are suggested to use this application daily, but we are not requiring them to because of possible privacy issues or concerns.



5. Random piece of clothing

In their bag, each hipster will receive a $15 Visa gift card that they are highly encouraged to use in the purchase of a new piece of clothing to accent their wardrobe. As they work the new item into their wardrobe, they will be encouraged to take photos of their choices everyday, however they will be prompted to send at least one photo of their styling choices.

Studying their choices in how they wear the item and what articles of clothing they gravitate towards will help our team identify trends in hipster culture.

This is something the user is suggested to do once a week, however we’re only requiring at least one photo towards the middle of the study. Additionally, we ask that the user also notes to us in some way which article of clothing they purchased.


6. Music Editing Software



Users can select popular songs from their albums



User can edit various characteristics of a song

The music-editing software’s primary goal is to understand why hipsters listen to a different type of songs. Is it the lyrics? the tempo? beats? This will let us know if a certain technical aspect of songs is attractive to the group as a whole.

The software is distributed in a USB drive. It will include a predetermined set of songs.

After the user has finished editing a song, they’re prompted to add it to their playlist. The playlist can then be burned to a CD so that the user can keep the software (USB) for future use! We will then compare the original and the edited versions of the song to study the pattern of changes made on songs.

This is something the user is encouraged to experiment with for the length the study. They are prompted to return the CD at the end of the month.

7. Photography 

We will provide the users with a standard disposable camera in order to capture moments throughout their days. By looking at a series of photos taken by the individual, we can understand what kind of activities they’re into, what is “photo-worthy” for them, and have an insight into the user’s creativity.  I.e. will they take photos of food, or will they convert light coming through blinds to take a creative selfie?

This is designed to be inspirational and fun, so there will not be too many limitations. The user will be advised to take at least one photo a day for the entire month (more photos are always welcome).




The start of our design process was to identify which group we wanted to target for our kit. We first thought of some different groups we know nothing about, and then listed ideas of things that could go into the kit. After selecting the group we wanted we listed out the requirements for the kit and all of the elements of the kit. We divided up the elements between us and we each worked on a mockup and description of our element.

One of the strengths of our kit is the variety of the elements in the kit that covers a wide variety of things such as, the businesses they frequent, the music they listen to, and the clothes they wear. One of the weaknesses of our kit is that there may be too many items in the kit. This makes flow control difficult and it becomes difficult to give each item sufficient time for it to be meaningful. The probe process can have skewed results since the study population is not chosen by the study sponsors but by people volunteering themselves so, the study population can become skewed toward a particular group or type of group easily.

My first impressions of the process were that this was just some busy work that we had to do for a grade. However, this soon changed as we began the design process and discussed which groups we were curious about. I became genuinely interested in figuring out what could help us learn what makes a hipster tick. By the end of this I had an enjoyable experience to look back on and two expertly crafted paper mockup phones.


As a group we originally all suggested some communities that we were unfamiliar with, and began a brainstorming process to decide which community we were the most curious about, and could reach out to the most effectively. As we made progress, it quickly became apparent that we kept coming back to the Hipster community; we were full of questions. Once we had a community, we decided to start expanding on some of our probe kit ideas, and certain members picked certain design aspects relative to our respective interests and talents. We made sure to design kit elements that would hit upon key points of our interests, and some that would simply yield interesting results.

One of the main benefits of our probe kit is that a lot of the elements can be easily incorporated into the user’s everyday life. We designed the elements to mesh into their schedules with minimum effort on their part to successfully fulfill the requirements, e.g., the voice recorder will easily fit into their pocket, and can be done anywhere throughout their day. Additionally, some of the elements (i.e. probe book) can also function as stress relievers, since drawing or sketching can be cathartic. Because the kit is not that invasive, I think users will be more likely to utilize it. One weakness our kit has, however, is that we didn’t want to require the users to have to complete certain inspirational elements in our kit, so it is possible that we could end up not receiving any data back this way. While this can serve as meaningful data, as mentioned in class, it is still a design weakness in my opinion, because something about our element didn’t draw out the desired reaction from the user.  Additionally, we chose to include a Visa gift card and suggest that the users purchase an article of clothing to incorporate into their wardrobe with the credit. These results can end up being skewed (and most likely will be) since we cannot be 100% sure that users actually purchase the item or just try and fool us with a previously owned item and use the money on something else.  Additionally, we ask the users to note which item they have purchased, but this too could be easily overlooked or forgotten even if the user returns their other items.

As for the probe process in general, I think it does add a lot more time onto the lifespan of a study or project, but that if done thoughtfully can strongly impact the process for the better. It is important to understand who you are deigning for, and a probe kit offers a meaningful way of doing that. Ultimately, if a project’s timeline allows for it, I think probe kits should be used, even in cases where designers are familiar with their target communities. I say this because, while you might be familiar with them, it also gives them a chance to become familiar with your designs. In that way, they can offer richer feedback and inspiration, which only serves to enhance the entire experience. For these reasons, I would only suggest forgoing a probe kit if your timeline absolutely doesn’t allow for it.

Overall, this project experience was more successful than I initially thought it would be. At first, I was unsure if we could create a kit that would help answer our questions and gain the trust of the Hipster community, but as a team I think we managed to pull through and let our designs evolve in such a way that we were not presenting our kit elements in a stereotypical way. It was especially interesting to see how fast we progressed from brainstorming to development, in comparison with how much longer it took me to design for the last project on my own. Additionally, I felt like the diversity of our team specifically aided in the development process since we were constantly expanding and improving upon each other’s suggestions based on various ideas and insights.



Overall this was a very satisfying process of brainstorming and assembling items in a way we thought would encourage discussion. We began by rattling off whatever groups of people we were interested in, but didn’t really understand. At that point we tried to come up with ideas as to how we would cater to that groups apparent interests, and chose our subject from there. Since we were able to think of more possible opportunities to interact with hipsters, we chose to focus our project in that direction.

I feel that one of the challenges we faced was figuring out how to glean information off of a group naturally and without demanding results from the subjects. We dealt with this by trying to make all of our activities available for a longer period of time so the subjects wouldn’t feel smothered by the project. For obvious reasons it was difficult to decide which objects the culture would respond to so we tried to establish our elements in a way that the user could be creative and use the kit in any way they wanted to with few limitations.

It definitely felt strange trying to, for lack of a better word, manipulate people into sharing their personal lives. We tried to find new and exciting ways of communication, however there was only so much we could do with the mediums we chose.

Overall, the project was very interesting, while abrupt. I found myself disheartened that these kits would probably never be deployed, which I think is a good sign of a project’s concept. Our team was fairly diverse which led to lots of different perspectives and better design decisions to end up with a better project.


When I lived in San Francisco last year, I saw a group of people who were different from the those I’ve seen in Blacksburg. They dressed distinctly, ate at less-known restaurants, talked liberally, and lived a very practical life. Due to my busy internship-schedule, I didn’t have time to talk to someone I considered “hipster.”

When we were selecting groups, hipster actually sounded silly, but as we kept discussing we realized how mysterious the group was and how much we didn’t know. Soon, the lines pointing to probes began growing, and we picked Hipsters from “Townies”, “Business Students”, and “Illegal Immigrants.”

Our probes for the group are well picked and I think they’ll be fun for the participant, which will help us earn their trust. Specifically, the photography and music-editing probes were my favorite because they’re a mixture of creativity, imagination, and also let’s us study why hipsters listen to different types of music and live a progressive lifestyle.

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