Projects 2010 > Sculpting with Scent > Journal
Perfumers are like architects in a way. They conceive of their fragrances as operating in two distinct dimensions: time and space. Time applies to the longevity of the scent or how complex accords evolve. Space applies to the sillage or spread of the scent.
Both are important if we want to layer smells up or get a user to experience a number of smells sequentially. Each sense has a ‘burn out’ behaviour hard-wired in to prevent a sort of feedback loop building up in the sensory system when a powerful, continuous stimulus is encountered. Smell burns out fastest of all, probably because it is so powerful and complex. So the problem with getting people to smell something is that they’ll rarely smell it for long unless it’s really (and probably offensively) powerful.
Smells seem to work best when they’re ‘glimpsed’. So the interaction has to be designed in a different way than if you were using images or sound.
TWO MODELS OF INTERACTION
1. The scent tunnel
The user is in a controlled – possibly enclosed – environment where scent is dispersed at intervals. These could be time or space intervals. Or both.
This is an early experiment where scent strips are placed a few feet apart to create a ‘corridor’ of smell.
The environment could also limit other sensory inputs i.e. be dark, silent. Something like this (thanks Dan’l for the suggestion). The whole experience would be immersive
Although it’s surprisingly difficult to create an enclosed area where you can cut out sound and light…
2. Scent Pebbles
The alternative is to (literally) hand control of the experience to the user. Earlier this year we created a concept for Chanel where individual, sculpted objects would ‘explain’ each of the notes in their new fragrance through both smell and touch. So for instance Pink Peppercorn would fell abrasive and sharp to augment the smell experience.
The idea is that the user can ‘read’ a scent story by individually smelling/feeling sculpted objects.
Last night I experimented with infusing scent into modeling clay and giving it texture. No I don’t have anything better to do before you ask. I’m going to try this with a few different materials – the trick is to find something that can either be molded or shaped with standard tools, feels right, is odour-free and retains scent accurately.