Design Smells (Graduate Research Thesis)

Graduate thesis research for a MFA in Design Criticism from the School of Visual Arts in New York.


Smells and the act of smelling are a form of communication and yet we as society have few words to discuss their role as an element in the experience of design (and life). For my thesis research in the Design Criticism program at SVA in New York, I chose to examine odor as a currently an untapped medium of utterance, that while present in all design, is only just being actively engaged by designers as a product of and form of design practice to express value, capture moments, define identity, alert us to danger, stimulate desire and enliven environments. 

Twentieth century modernist design attempted to banish odors, but environmental illnesses as well as the contemporary marketing of that ‘new car smell’ reveal the extent to which consciously smelling and subliminal olfaction shape our experience in a world wherein the dematerialization of technology appears to be leading us further away from direct sensory experience. Using case studies of odor projects in the realm of design, my thesis attempts to give a working set of conceptual vocabulary to engage more fully our scented experiences in the world of everyday design.
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