suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
cmmnwlth: ‘Headspace’ was a symposium convened by Paola Antonelli, of the MoMA, and Laetitia Wolff of Futureflair, exploring the impact and potential applications of scent on design. Given the challenge of combining constructed smells with designed objects in a way that sheds light on the nature of both fields, we immersed ourselves within the laboratories of global perfume giant, International Flavors and Fragrances.
Based in New Jersey, IFF is a chemical corporation producing smells and artificial flavors for a variety of clients from processed food makers, to the cosmetic industry, and fashion houses working within fine fragrance. Of particular interest to us were the Chemical Psychology and MoodMapping departments within IFF.
‘MoodMapping’, in combination with GCMS analysis, is a process by which the chemical structures of olfactory molecules are mapped to non-olfactory characteristics. For example: limonene, one of the olfactory molecules that emanates from lemons, is generally understood to signify ‘innocence’ and ‘freshness’. Typically, a Perfumer (also know as a ‘Nez’) will use this MoodMapping tool to translate non-olfactory qualities given by a client in a perfume design brief into the rough chemical outline of a designed fragrance.
In a reversal of this process, we began with a scent- a sufficiently pungent block of historic lumber. From a small sample sent to the lab, IFF captured the olfactory molecules emanating from our sample using GCMS analysis, and then, by feeding this through the MoodMapping databases, determined what qualities were associated with the scent of our lumber. After two weeks, our 100 year-old piece of old growth Douglas Fir was translated into a list of feelings and associations. These non-olfactory characteristics became our design brief.
The old growth lumber was said to smell: masculine, therapeutic, antibacterial, stressed, depressed, gold, pale yellow, overwhelming, brutal, dark, chocolate, bloody and nostalgic.
After much consideration, we decided our old-growth material ‘wanted to be’ or ‘smelled like’ a Butcher Block- a surface for dissecting animals and all the colors, moods and heavy feelings that entails.
In our response to the symposium’s question- ‘What are the potential new applications of scent in design?’ scent became a way of generating a brief. What emerged from the scent of our mysterious piece of old growth lumber was this: the Headspace ButcherBlock.