Speaking at creative technology festival STRP Biennale in Eindhoven (March 24 to April 2), Norwegian artist Sissel Tolaas pointed out that the sense of smell is our most powerful memory recall faculty. A number of other projects exhibited at the event also incorporated scent.
- Tolaas showed her Smell Memory Kit, which supplies a selection of up to 1,500 abstract scents in vials. These can be carried in a metal ampule, and sniffed when the user wishes to remember a specific experience.
- Creating a more collective memory, Dutch collective Polymorf's Famous Deaths installation offers scents associated with specific celebrity departures. For instance, singer Whitney Houston's smells like a bubble bath, while US president John F Kennedy's evokes the gunpowder of his assassination, inviting participants to recall the media spectacle of these incidents.
- Tom Pursey, co-founder of London-based advertising agency Flying Object, explained how the Sensorium at the UK's Tate museum in 2015 used smell and taste to enhance the visitor experience. For example, on viewing a Francis Bacon painting, participants were given a chocolate with a dust-like texture to conjour the darkness of war. Meanwhile, a perfume from the 1940s was used to evoke the smell of a mid-century interior to contextualise Richard Hamilton's 1960s pop art.
Projects like these – including the Smell of Data by Leanne Wijnsma, which was also on show – are increasing awareness of how smell influences environments, and how it should be considered alongside visual design.
See Subtle Sensory Design for more on the rise of scent design.