SHANNON NEFF



Creative Juices, 2020. Bottle branding.
Finestre di Venezia, 2019. Book. 8 × 5 in.

Sniff by Sneff

“It is clear that olfaction is a robust material experience; it tells us something about the world—something about people, places, and materials. The sense of smell provides us with vital signals about the invisible core of things.”

—A. S. Barwich, Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind

The sense of smell is very powerful. Scents can transport us back in time, evoke emotions, and aid in our survival. It is arguably one of the most important senses that we have. However, the study of olfaction has been largely overlooked due to its lack of tangibility and visibility. We, as humans, find it incredibly difficult to describe scents because the part of the brain that interprets smell is quite distant from the area that processes language.

Smells can seduce or repel us, but we can not comprehend how the human brain gives them meaning. Although we process scents similarly, depending on varying personal experiences, everyone will have a slightly different reaction. It is for this reason that I chose to explore the mind map behind the sense of smell.

Throughout my life, I have always had such visceral reactions to smells, good or bad. In my thesis, I recall the smells that have stuck with me and analyze the memories and feelings associated with them. As designers, we seldom consider the sense of smell as a design tool, but I believe that it can be useful. Scents have the ability to trigger certain emotions, which influences our way of thinking and creating. By focusing on how the sense of smell has impacted my life thus far and acknowledging it in the present, I will explore how scents can become a tool for design.