Scent Explored As New Territory For Design
On March 26, Parsons The New School for Design and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in partnership with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF) and Seed magazine presented HEADSPACE: A Symposium on Scent as Design. The daylong event took place at The New School in New York City where leading Designers, scholars, Scientists, Artists and Perfumers explored this new territory for design.
“Through scent, we more fully perceive space, fashion our identities and navigate the built and natural environments,” explained Joel Towers, Dean of Parsons. “This is an ideal topic to address as Parsons prepares to launch a new MFA program in Transdisciplinary Design, which will break the boundaries of traditional design to create a new method of collaborative, cross-disciplinary practice.”
HEADSPACE brought together panelists including IFF Perfumers, Designers who acted as “accidental perfumers” and The New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr who moderated several of the individual dialogues with the “accidental perfumers” on their scent design and creative process. Jamer Hunt, Chair of Urban and Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons; Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA and Laetitia Wolff, founder of futureflair conceived the program. They also acted as moderators along with Adam Bly, founder and CEO of Seed magazine.
“Scent is an exciting realm for design exploration at a time when technology seems to be leading us further away from direct sensory experiences,” declared Ms. Antonelli. “However, new science is exploring the ways in which scent stimulates cognition, memory and the production of experience and how fragrance affects our everyday lives. This symposium generated a dialogue on what this means for Designers and Architects.”
In addition to panel discussions, this event included a select group of “accidental perfumers”—Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck of Birsel + Seck; Zoe Coombes and David Boira of Commonwealth; Harvard University’s Toshiko Mori; Majora Carter of the Majora Carter Group and Proef’s Marije Vogelzang—who partnered with the IFF Perfumers Celine Barel, Yves Cassar, Jean Marc Chaillan, Loc Dong, Pascal Gaurin, Clément Gavarry, Bruno Jovanovic and Laurent Le Guernec to create a series of unique applications for scent in everyday life beyond fragrance. A film by Virtual Beauty’s Jane Nisselson documented the Designer/Perfumer collaborations and recorded the process of designing a scent.
“IFF was thrilled to partner with Parsons and MoMA on this groundbreaking event,” noted Véronique Ferval, Creative Center Manager at IFF New York. “One of our priorities is to increase knowledge and foster innovation in our industry, and we are delighted to work with professional Designers as well as students to explore new areas of discovery.”
|The audience at HEADSPACE in Parsons The New School for Design||IFF’s Anahita Mekanik and Mendi Lisi (3rd r.) with Elizabeth Arden’s Marcy Fisher, Geri Archer, Jane Park and Art Spiro||The Estée Lauder Companies’ Trudi Loren (c.) with IFF’s Jean-Marc Chaillan, Pierre-Yves Cariou, Bruno Jovanovic and Bertrand Lemont|
|The New York Times’ Chandler Burr, IFF’s Yves Cassar and Harvard University’s Toshiko Mori discuss using perfume science to capture a single frame in a natural smell’s evolution called “ultra-natural scent.”||Majora Carter of the Majora Carter Group with Parsons’ Joel Towers||IFF’s Clémont Gavarry, Mr. Jovanovic, Celine Barel, Carlos Benaïm, Mr. Chaillan, Laurent Le Guernec and Mr. Cassar|
|RE_searchLab Berlin’s Sissel Tolaas with IFF’s Véronique Ferval||futureflair’s Laetitia Wolff with
IFF’s Nicolas Mirzayantz and Ms. Ferval
|Ms. Ferval and Mr. Benaïm chat about the HEADSPACE program.|
Thirteen students from a range of disciplines at Parsons The New School including illustration, product design, design and management, integrated design as well as the humanities collaborated to conceive, design and produce two scent “experiences” for HEADSPACE
that illuminated how the sense of smell is tied both to temporal change and also to moments in the day. These projects were produced through a course taught by Mr. Hunt.
None of the students had designed with scent before, and the process was a large-scale collaboration involving experimentation, research, prototyping and refinement. Each design was enacted at the symposium so that participants of the symposium not only saw and heard about scent but also experienced it directly. The two projects were “Scent Clock” with scents to suggest different times of the day and “Headspace Sexytime,” which featured a scent specifically designed for this topic.
In a panel on “Designing Scents,” with Designer Ayse Birsel, IFF Perfumer Carlos Benaïm and Ms. Ferval, scent was described as a “threshold experience. Once through the threshold, you stop smelling the scent.” Mr. Benaïm disclosed the process of using Headspace to analyze the air around an object and isolate a molecule for a scent. For the creation of a scent, he lets his mind wander to figure out the olfactive image he wants to conceive. The architecture of a scent, he explained, “is concerned with what it imparts in the beginning, how it evolves on the skin and how fast the molecules ascend in the air.”
Mr. Benaïm believes that creative people other than Perfumers should be involved with a fragrance brief to create excitement. He suggested perhaps a clothing Designer or a celebrity should be the motivational force in the development of a fragrance. “When I consulted with Donna Karan in the creation of a fragrance, she took a big bolt of red suede and said she wanted the fragrance to smell like that. We want to create emotionally charged fragrances,” he added, “like the scent of a woman after a shower.”
Ms. Ferval maintains that the strength of a Perfumer is the ability to fine tune an idea without losing the integrity of the scent. “In a [fragrance] brief, a Perfumer needs to work constantly on ideas.”