Event Report

Olfaction Design Lab, Vol 1: Synthesize the Smell of Rose

In 1982, Yale University psychology researcher William Cain identified the most easily recognizable scents and published his results in the journal, Chemical Senses. The article, titled “Odor Identification by Males and Females”, identified smells such as peanut butter, coffee, and Johnson’s baby powder as some of the most easily recognizable scents. Wintergreen was easily recognized by all, likely do it its ubiquitous inclusion in a variety of hygiene products.

How about the smell of a rose? Sweet, musky, spicy, citronelle, the scent of a rose has been utilized in perfumes and food for centuries. But, what do we mean exactly by, “the smell of a rose”? In the first volume of the Olfaction Design Lab, participants aimed to consider just this by synthesizing their own unique rose scent.

The general goal of the newly minted Olfaction Design Lab is to research and consider the sense of smell as a medium for communication. Up until recently, design research, including user experience, has focused on the sense of vision. However, as digital trends continue to grow in increasingly creative ways, other bodily senses, such as smell and touch, have become key interest areas for those keen to engage with users in a more material and embodied sense.

Leading the lab is Japan and Netherlands based olfaction artist, Maki Ueda. Originally trained at the Media Art Masters school at Keio University, Maki Ueda now holds over a decade of teaching and exhibiting experience based on the topic of smell and art. Since 2009, she has held a teaching position at the Royal University of the Netherlands, conducting the world’s first and only “olfactory art” course.

The Synthesize the Smell of Rose workshop was held twice on the same day, and lasted 3 hours. Approximately 35 participants attended each session. On Peatix, both sessions were sold out.

Program Schedule
・Lecture and Presentation (30min)
    – Smell Design Introduction
    – The Potential and Latest Trends in Smell Design
    – About Maki Ueda’s Works

・Group Work- Collaborate on the construction of the rose scent (60min)
   – Rose gas chromatography

  – Smell 10 type of important smell components of the rose scent
  – Make your own original rose scent
  – Smell the original rose scents of other groups (30min)

・Question and answer session & networking (60min)

Ms. Ueda began the workshop with a short lecture on the basics of smell research, including an interesting discussion on how one’s physiological state, the environment and one’s personal history can affect the ways in which we identify smells. Following this, Ms. Ueda spoke about the latest trends in smell design, including her work Olfactoscape, which involved deconstructing the scent of Chanel 05 via separating the individual scents that compose Chanel 05 and placing them on curtains on a 3 meter diameter space. In Olfactoscape, participants could both smell the scents components that make up Chanel 05 while also experimenting with reconstructing the scents themselves.

In a similar fashion, Ms. Ueda introduced participants first to two rose scents found in nature, Turkish Rose Oil and Rose Absolute. Follow thing, participants were introduced to 10 separate scent components that are commonly found inside the scent of a rose. One-by-one, Citronellol, Rose Oxide, Geraniol and other smell components were introduced to participants who took notes on each.

At the end of the smell sampling, small groups of 3 to 4 people set to the task of creating their own rose scent recipe from the individual smell components.

Following the final adjustments of the individual rose recipes, participants organized their space for sharing their final scent to others. Some of the final results were titled Mexican Rose, Summer Rose, Green Rose, and even simply, Rose No. 04.

It was interesting and fun to make rounds to the other tables and hear how different groups came to their decided concoction. It was quite the olfactory adventure! After sampling eachother’s constructed rose scents, each participant was given a small vial in which to take home their scent.

Olfaction Design Lab, Vol. 2 is set for July and future labs are planned to happen about once every couple of months. Spots are limited so interested parties should sign up early via Peatix! Join us and let’s design the future of olfaction together!

Located in FabCafe Tokyo, Kyoto and Hong Kong, MTRL (“Material”) is a creativity lounge that takes the word “material” as its core theme. MTRL Tokyo, located in Shibuya, aims to be a place where fresh ideas can be discovered by touching and interacting with materials through everyday events and projects. Through MTRL, new design fields, such as olfactory design and haptic design, can serve as jumping points to explore possibilities of new value creation.
For more information, please visit https://mtrl.com/

For more information on Scent Artist Maki Ueda, please visit http://www.ueda.nl/index.php?lang=en

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