SMELL: How our insatiable desire for experience is giving rise to sensory perception and the renaissance of smell

Recently, in conversation with Bernardo Fleming, Head of the Olfactive Design Studio at International Flavors & Fragrances, he gave an insightful analogy to this current moment in time when the rising interest for smell is spanning industries and disciplines; he coined this “the renaissance of smell”. Renaissance. Great word. I can also see how many artists, academics, startups, organizations and special interest groups are increasingly working with this elusive sense — far more than ten years ago when I first found myself in this space.

Why Smell was Relegated to a Secondary Role- a (very) brief history

The birth of western thought, intellect, and reason, and thus the basis for science today stems from the ancient Greeks. Plato assigned the sense of sight as the foundation for philosophy; Aristotle provided a clear hierarchy where he considered sight and hearing nobler in comparison to touch, taste, and smell.

Our Insatiable Desire for Experience

One key aspect sets Millennials and Gen Z apart from previous generations: They are willing to pay more for experiences than for things. It’s no revelation that this generation is hungry for experiences- not just for themselves but also as an excuse to broadcast their unique fun packed lives to the world. Unicorns like Snapchat and Instagram have recognized this insatiable thirst, and have the valuations to prove how fundamental this is to Gen Z.

Academic Progress and Human-Computer Interaction

Our need for experience has finally led the scientific world towards a holistic approach to researching sensory perception– rather than looking at each sense in isolation.

The Rise of the Gourmet Palette

Our palates have also become more refined as a result of our desire for experiences, and this translates into numbers: Our total personal consumption spending doubled in the past 15 years. Through food, the sense of smell is playing an important part in some of the most enjoyable parts of the day- mealtime. Food so often brings people together to have a fun, shared experience. This makes the sense of smell an even more powerful tool to evoke the memories of important, food-centered pleasures in people’s everyday lives.

Our sense of smell, scent, tech and humanness. Find me on Instagram @futureofsmell.

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