Olfactory Considerations in Design, A New Dimension to Product Experience
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: Brecht Daams
Institution: Daams Ergonomie, The Netherlands
Section: Ethics and Emotions
Olfactory sense is not often incorporated in ergonomics and product design, even though it is a part of sensory ergonomics just as sight and hearing are. Technical developments allow nowadays to incorporate smell in many different products. As smell can influence experience and sense of smell has several functions, it is worthwhile for designers to know about olfactory sense and how to design for it.
In this article, an overview is given of the olfactory system and its characteristics. Information is supplied on how to design for various goals, e.g. to prevent, mask, disperse or control odours, to attain congruous smell and taste, to prevent allergies, to transfer information and to influence emotions.
A product should smell congruent to its material, function and context, unless the designer deliberately wants an incongruent smell. Odour can be a powerful instrument to influence emotion and reflexive reactions, but it is difficult to put this use into practice because the reactions to olfactory signals are often determined individually. On the other hand, odour can be used very effectively to give warning in some situations. Attention must be given to fragrance allergy, which affects up to 9,7 % of the population. This percentage is rising, allegedly because of increasing application of fragrances. Application of fragrances in public areas is advised against. The conclusion is that designers should spend conscious thought on olfactory factors in a product. Education presents a good opportunity to advance in this relatively new aspect of design.