Innovation That Matters

Sensory Maps guides users through the practice of sensory mapping | Photo source Mulyadi on Unsplash

Smell maps create new ways of exploring cities

Arts & Entertainment

Travellers can make their own map or follow one already made

Spotted: Sensory exploration is a growing area of interest, for reasons pertaining to both health and enjoyment. By engaging more fully with a broader range of human senses, individuals can experience an event or location in greater depth and detail. Researcher Dr Kate McLean, an artist and course leader of the BA Graphic Design programme at the University of Kent, uses mapping techniques to bring the complexities of city odours to life.

McLean’s ‘smellscape’ work combines data with art. She leads smellwalks around the world and uses watercolour, animation, sculpture, and scent diffusion to make the data visible. The smellscapes are often brightly coloured, and feature swirls and dots, conveying the sense of constant motion without becoming overwhelming.

Each smellscape is ephemeral and is only ever a snapshot of a particular moment in time. McLean highlights the depth of emotion that many of her smellwalk participants reveal when they come across certain combinations of odours. As well as leading and teaching smellwalks, McLean provides a guide to smellscape mapping on her Sensory Maps website.

The human body’s olfactory system connects to the brain’s memory centre. As multi-sensory products and experiences become more common, scents become more powerful, evoking, as many do, certain thoughts and reminiscences from a person’s past. Springwise has spotted scent being used to remind people of the origin of a lamp made from orange peels and as a means of bringing a classical painting to life in a new way.  

Written by: Keely Khoury

Email: mcleankate@mac.com

Website: sensorymaps.com

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