Designing with our Five Senses: Smell
As part of our Material Xperience theme exploring the ‘Five Senses’ in design, we’ve looked so far at sight, touch and taste. Today we are unravelling sense of smell. This is one of the most fun senses to explore for design inspiration. Materia’s collection has plenty of great sensory materials including Raúl Laurí’s composite material Decafé – which contains coffee grounds – Rosae wallpaper made with rose petals and wallcoverings by Organoid that containing lavender, pine needles and many more natural materials to delight your nose.
Smell: This sense is most closely connected with the limbic system of your brain where emotions are processed. It is for example possible that a certain scent brings back certain memories of the past and can also trigger the recollection of knowledge. It has in fact been proven that if you prepare for an exam with a certain scent present and you then smell the same scent during the exam, your chance of success is increased by up to 70%.
Smell can also affect people’s behaviour in other positive ways. The smell of roses for example is known to induce a feeling of relaxation, whereas lemon scents lead to feelings of invigoration and the smell of apple pie or coffee brings a feeling of comfort. In addition, our sense of smell acts as a warning mechanism for fire and hazardous substances. This mechanism is however limited. After exposure to a particular scent over a period of time, you are no longer able to sharply smell or detect it.
In the built environment, sense of smell plays a particularly important role in the retail sector. In addition to drawing in customers with great smelling products, positive fragrances in an environment have been shown to subdue one’s sense of time and feelings of urgency, encouraging customers to linger for longer.