The T-Probe:

A fashion-led approach to advance understanding of novel and challenging material concepts and sensory experiences

The aim of this project was to pilot, assess and develop the globally worn everyday garment – the ‘humble’ T-shirt – as a wearable probe, defined in this research as the T-probe, to advance engagement with, and understanding of, challenging concepts relating to novel materials and sensory experiences.

In the course of addressing this primary aim the research expanded into a three-part enquiry reflecting the complexity of factors involved in introducing novel material concepts via a design probe, and attaining sensory experience and perception data via the two-pronged approach of observation and self-reported measures.

A 'çheese-mould' tee: speculative design
A ‘cheese-mould’ tee: speculative design

The value of the T-probe was tested via three separate projects, selected based on common challenges associated with public perception and engagement:


Research Project (I)
Fungi materials for clothing:

Explores perception of mould as a novel material for garment design and fabrication.




Research Project (II)
Fashion for deafblind people:

Studies how a fashion experience may be introduced to a sensitive user group, i.e. people with visual and auditory impairment.


Participant sensory experience of synthetic fragrance

Research Project (III)
Synthetic ingredients for fine fragrance:

Engages consumer understanding of synthetic ingredients in perfumery


Research Project (I) was a pilot study based on the researcher’s personal design interest in the development and market introduction of novel bio-based materials. 

Projects (II) and (III) were set up in partnerships with non-academic organisations: the charity for deafblind people Sense and the global company International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) respectively, to further test the value of the T-probe in advancing understanding of materials and sensory experiences within contexts of social and / or market interest(s).

The findings of the research enquiry demonstrate that the T-shirt is well accepted and engaged with, and functions well as a probe in eliciting and enhancing participant sensory experience and perception of novel and challenging material concepts.

By following a systematic approach to the design and implementation of the T-probe from concept to actualisation, this doctoral research project contributes to an advanced understanding of issues related to the design and application of probes to fulfil specific research and design objectives within the various evolutionary stages of materials, products, technologies, and consumer experiences. 

Download thesis via British Library EThOS