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Bringing in the senses

As a reflection of my focus and interest in creating interaction and art with the lesser-used senses of smell, taste, and touch, I’ve been creating new business cards and working on a “sensory identity” (if you will).  I thought I’d share a bit more about my process.

Working with Livia von Seld of LvS design, we created a simple white card featuring a UV-gloss print of a Japanese-style plum tree on the reverse side.  When printed in this clear but extremely reflective ink, the tree branch looks a lot like a splash or a wave of liquid, and I love the ambiguity there.

I’ve come up with a new tagline, too: “makes sense”. Get it? Yep folks, the woman cannot resist a double entendre. The tagline is printed in a grey so light you can barely see it against the white card. So it rides on the edge of perception, liminal.  Overall, for the visual design I want to reward those who take a closer look.

And lastly, I’m adding scent to these cards.  The idea of scented visiting cards is nothing new, of course, but I’m not going to use an antique smell;  no violets here, m’dears. Instead, I spent two solid hours in the perfume room of the wonderful Vienna 5th district shop stattGarten. I chose it because they carry Demeter scents, which are “single note” fragrances that are drawn from specific real-world ideas, and many are not at all “perfumey” – such as Dust, Fresh Hay, Bourbon, Condensed Milk, and… Lobster.  So strange, memorable, and most importantly: not overtly gendered. I’ve owned two Demeter scents, Fig Leaf and Bonfire, since the early 00s when I came across their flagship store in the East Village.

stattGarten also carry a small selection of Lampe Berger, which is an alcohol-based home scent collection from France that I first used as a material four years ago on my SUGAR olofactorizer project.  There are some decent non-perfumey scents like Leather and Ocean, and at a really reasonable price compared to scents made for the skin.

I am lucky stattGarten is just a few blocks walk from my apartment because I’ll definitely be going back.  Most of the designer perfume shops in Vienna are in the first district (the downtown old town area) and cater to the Prada and Gucci set.  By contrast, at stattGarten if you have the willpower to get your nose out of the bottles, you’re greeted by ostrich wallpaper and freaky stuffed foxes.  On the sound system, the playlist included the Shangri Las, Nico… music that was obviously what the owners liked to listen to themselves.  I instantly liked Daniel, one of the three founders, when I asked him why he started the shop, he answered, “Oh, nothing special really,” and then proceeded for the next twenty minutes to tell me animatedly about the founding of the shop and the passions of its owners, their philosophy, methodology, and plans for the future.

At the end of two hours I’d probably smelled 75 to 100 perfumes, and picked one Demeter and one Berger that I plan to combine for something really unique and I hope interesting.  From Demeter I went with Whiskey Tobacco and from Berger, Grapefruit.  Now I’m working on how to distribute them on the cards.  So far, neither seem to stain or blotch the paper, so I may have an easy time of it than I’d feared.

Naturally I tried on a few scents for myself as well, and really liked two:  green, green, green, and… green by Miller et Bertaux of Paris, and IndischLeder (“Indian Leather”) by Austrian (!) perfumer WienerBlut, which features  reformulations of 19th century Viennese handkerchief-perfumes.

My new stinky cards will debut at the Lift 2013 conference next week, where I’m going to talk about recent advances in vibrator interface design.

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