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Human Behaviour Research | User Research | Innovative Design Methodologies | Scent Experiment Design

13/09/2021 - 05/10/2021

Individual project

Odour-Evoked Memory in the Interaction Design Context

Research and design methods based on olfactory experiments

To allow a scent to effectively trigger an individual memory in the interaction design context, I designed and implemented an experiment on odour and memory. Based on the results and discussion of the audience test, I summarised two main problems with odor-evoked memory in the context of interaction: the subjectivity of odour-evoked memory, and the weak recognition of odours. At the same time, I suggested four effective design approaches to address the two issues.

Research - Yuqing Liu

Experiment Design - Yuqing Liu

Design Methodology - Yuqing Liu

Photography- Yuqing Liu


Previous works mostly concern solving the scientific and technical problems of olfactory interaction, and lack a guiding framework to improve the olfactory experience and design performance. This study focuses on the olfactory experience and investigates design limitations and solutions by evaluating the audience's memory and their emotional response to scents. 


Experiment Design

In this experiment, 23 participants were required to fill out a questionnaire to describe related memories and emotions by experiencing one smell. In addition, the participants’ descriptions of odours, odour-induced emotions, and memories were recorded in the form of keywords.


Results and Limitations

This experiment revealed limitations such as the personal and unpredictable nature of scent memory and differences in the audience's ability to recognise scents. It was also necessary to consider the limitations of groups with defective or temporarily impaired olfactory systems.


Design Approach

Four design approaches were created to address the limitations of scent memory in the context of interaction design. These include Personal Scent Combination, the odour Memory Sharing Platform, Semantic Processing and Multisensory Interaction.


Design Method I: Personal Scent Combination


In response to the limitation of unpredictable smell memory in the interactive design context, users are provided with a personal scent combination based on their own life experiences, which can assist in inducing autobiographical memory. Although this results in a workload of odour selection, its benefits can be seen over time. 

Portfolio of Scent, ‘Scentimental’ by Stewart (2020)

Design Method II: Odour Memory Sharing Platform

Another method is to provide a platform for the audience to share their memories and emotions around the scents during the olfactory experience. During the audience's interaction with the scent, shared memories have the potential to trigger nostalgic experiences as well as emotional resonance.


Audience voluntarily participating in sniffing, 'Smellmap: Paris’ by McLean (2019)

Design Method III: Semantic Processing & Multisensory Interaction

For the limitations of smell recognition, semantic processing, and multisensory interaction are considered effective design methods. In my study, semantic processing refers to providing relevant word labels or descriptions for a smell so that it can be placed within a linguistic context for more in-depth processing, and multisensory interaction refers to interactions between two or more different sensory modalities.

Research Presentation

Research presentation | Odor-evoked memory in the Interaction design context
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