Designer Kate McLean of Edinburgh, Scotland, has developed a method of producing portraits of global destinations by interpreting sensory experiences of them via the various distinct aromas indicative of each locale. McLean has chosen Newport as the flagship city for the United States, “mapped” for the first time by smell.
The task, part of McLean’s Sensory Maps project, takes an entirely fresh approach to cartography. Where traditional maps show travellers the highways, byways, landmarks and coastline of Newport and its environs, a Sensory Map collates the individual experiences of the city by way of the people who both live and visit here. Since McLean’s Newport research got underway in June, she has gathered data from contributors all over the city through “smell walks” and “smell bike rides.”
“When Kate first approached us with her idea, we all chuckled at the thought of a ‘Smell Map,’” says Cathy Morrison, VP of Operations at Discover Newport. “We were a bit sceptical, but after learning more about her extensive research methods, we were delighted that Kate chose our city to be the first in the country. We love to be innovative here at the Visitors Center, and this map offers a unique destination experience for visitors.”
The smells of the city – the salty hints of the ocean, the sweet fragrance of beach roses, the scent of wood used in the construction of boats at IRYS and in the restoration of the city’s Colonial houses – have been bottled for sniffing and graphically represented, charting the overlapping aromas around Newport.
“I started with the idea that each one of us constructs our own impression of a city that is made up of a personal combination of sensory perceptions. The original objective was to encourage visitors to a city to consider how their senses were affected by the place and to ascertain the sensory memories they retain and recall of the city in question. Smell has a high capacity to trigger memories; we have 100% recall through smell after a year whereas we have only 25% recall through sight after 3 months,” explains McLean. “The idea then developed through research into location, emotion and the sense ofsmell.”
Currently a Designer in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art and Visiting Lecturer at the New England School of Art & Design in Boston, McLean won the Service Category of the New Ideas Competition, a national contest coordinated by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, and is to present the Paris Smell Map at the 2012 International Design & Emotion Conference in London next month.
The Newport Sensory Map will be on exhibit August 21 through September 7, 2012 at the Visitors are encouraged to contribute their personal experiences by writing “SmellStories” in the book provided to further develop the city’s map.