Olfactory Avant Garde/ 12.29 Discusses the Role of Scent in Design

The scent of something, paradoxically, is ephemeral – but also unforgettable and evocative of the most potent emotions. Designers, artists and brands are starting to recognize this powerful stimulus that’s yet to be deeply explored.

Since 2009, the olfactory branding firm 12.29 has been scenting Design Miami/’s exhibition space with a bespoke watery, floral bouquet called Belle Ille, ensuring that the design experience of the fair covers all five senses. The scent is no simple feat, and is not merely a large-scale spraying of perfume. The fragrance is just as customized as the floating, cascading cylinders of Drift, Design Miami/’s entrance pavilion, and complements the venue’s visual, haptic and sonic textures.

New York-and-Paris based 12.29 partners with its clients to create distinct scents for placement in special events, private homes and retail spaces. They have collaborated with Lady Gaga, Purple Fashion, Corto Moltedo and others. These “olfactive identities” are own-able pieces of intellectual property, harnessing scent to influence commercial decisions or cultivate a mood.

The online interview magazine The Avant/Garde Diaries spoke with 12.29’s Scent Director, Dawn Goldworm, about the complex associations humans have when catching whiffs, and the opportunities for brands to impact behavior by controlling olfactory space. Ms. Goldworm draws parallels between artists, such as Marcel Duchamp and Damien Hirst, and the objects they re-interpreted to show that scent is also like an object to be played with and imbued with new meaning.

She also speaks in detail about her synesthesia – the innate ability to see colors, letters and numbers when she smells something, and vice versa. Even those of us without this ability know the influence of scent on our everyday lives. Just think of your childhood (and adult) memories of pizza, the fragrant rush of fresh-cut grass, or the musk on the nape of a lover’s neck. Visitors to Design Miami/ 2012 are sure to form an aroma-memory that will trigger an equal emotional response.

Shooting of “The Scent of Colours: An Artist’s Blessing” took place in New York City in March 2012. Credits: Produced and Directed by Christopher Ambrose and Fatking Films / Sound and Lighting by Ignacio Caraballo / Music by The Dead Texan / Sound Mix by Brian Rund at Mind Smack

-Rob Goyanes

Categories / 12.29, Dawn Goldworm, Design Miami/, Drift Pavilion, The Avant/Garde Diaries