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The Visual Aesthetics of Scent...

The Project... For my final major project I decided to look into the sense of smell. The aim of the project is to gain an insight into forming the visual aesthetics of scent, and how it would be portrayed if we were to see it. I found this an interesting topic as it explores the growing relationship between our senses and design which creates understanding and represntation of these senses.

Why Scent? Of the five senses that we possess, the last two – the chemical senses: taste and smell – are the most deep-rooted in our experiential world and psyche. At the same time, the least understood with the exception of the sensations of sweet, sour, bitter and salty, sensations which originate on the surface of the tongue – taste involves smelling through the back of the throat and, like the sense of smell, makes the connection through the nose and on to the most primitive parts of the brain via the olfactory epithelium. The resulting unique “hard-wiring” of these senses in humans leads to the “transporting” of our psyche to times and places long ago, with layers of memories both rich and full suddenly “revived” in such real and vivid detail that it is as if we had been transported instantly and magically back to that precise time.

Olfaction & Olfactory Memory Olfaction is the sense of smell. This sense is mediated by specialsed sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, and by analogy sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates. In humans, olfaction occurs when odourant molecules bind to specific sites on the olfactory receptors. These receptors are used to detect the presence of smell. Olfactory memory refers to the recollection of odors. Studies have found various characteristics of common memories of odor memory including persistence and high resistance to interference. Explicit memory is typically the form focused on in the studies of olfactory memory, though implicit forms of memory certainly supply distinct contributions to the understanding of odors and memories of them.

Understanding Scent... Understanding the process of making scent In order to create an effective piece that communicates the visual aspects of scent. Using the methods and processes to create visuals from which I was able to further develop and use.

Experimentation Scent & Technology... As part of some experimentation for this project I decided to incorporate interaction to my idea of scent and combine it with technology, thinking about how I could do this. It then came to my attention that I have an airfreshner with a motion sensor, there must be a way that I could play around with its electronic system and tamper with its functions. After taking the Glade sense and spray apart I realised that its motor which works in order for it to spray could be controlled using the Arduino and I could hack into its function of spraying.

Scented Oil Experimentation... This is an example of a method I used to represent the visual aspects of scent. After reading through “The Secret of Scent� Luca Turin I saw some examples of the molecular structures of scent and thought of using scented oil and combining it with water to reinterpret these structures visually. The visual outcome of this experiment was very interesting as I captured the movement of the oil within the water as it floated.

Development As part of my development I began applying different techniques to create visualisation of scent, and looking into perfum and art, in order for me to have enough material to put together an abstract moving image piece that communicates the visual aesthetics of scent.

The Visual Aesthetics of Scent...

The Final Outcome... An abstract moving image piece that steps away from reality in the representation of scent. The visuals used, metaphorically communicate this idea of scent, and the processes it goes through such as extraction and the chemical makeup, which portray the aesthetics of scent effectively. A method I used to create these visuals consisted of using ink in water, and captured its motion as it gradually dropped, which represented the enfleurage process. Another abstract representation I used was of the extraction process which consisted of cutting into a rose with a blade which then began to bleed, overlayed with the chemical equation used for extracting from the roses. Overall I would say that the metaphorical representation of images worked effectively in portraying the aesthetics of scent.

Here is a link to the final outcome for this project:

Blog Link:


my final major project on scent