Scents Are So Now

The smell of a thing is something one usually only thinks about when it’s not good these days. By one, I mean this one, the one pointing with this thumbs to himself in between typing. Meaning me. There are the off times that the smell of cinnamon in some baked good housing sends me on some quasi-Proustian sojourn of memory and pastry lust. That happens. But smell is generally something in our day and age you don’t think about that much. Part of that could be because the lack of digital equivalent.

Apparently, the taste makers are now filling trendy shops, not just your aunt’s craft shop, with candles and incense. I saw it first hand in Shoreditch, London where everything is invented, and was told, “Scents are so in this year.”

This struck me as such a weird statement, but one meriting a think or two about. We, especially designers like me, live very visual and technologically ruled lives. You look at things and the overwhelming amount of things zapped into your brain from your bodily senses come from your eyes. Thinking about technology and how it will wipe out potentially everything visual, I thought about what is this one thing that AI can’t do? One thing we have left to grasp that no amount of photo posting can capture?

The smell of place. The smell of a thing. Sure you can fake it, but can you fake or generate the experience of it? You can make any number of smells artificially I’m sure, but the reaction is much different. The smells we take with us in our memories and throughout the day. They linger in your brain and like that French dude centuries ago with his mom’s boring, sans cinnamon pastry, rush memories forward. But the experience itself is still very visceral. You almost feel smell, and you certainly can almost taste it.

What do I know, my sinuses generally hate me and don’t work most of the time anyhow. Also, I remember they tried a computer smell generator multiple times and it failed miserably each and every time.