It all began in Paris…
Jürgen Mayknicht and Nicole Szekessy met in Paris, the capital of fragrances, and are now on a mission to elevate Berlin to the same standing. At a conference like TYPO, where the analog/digital debate is already passé, it is interesting to learn about something that is primarily not visual and that cannot live on the internet. Fragrances are not tangible; they are not rational. They work on the unconscious, linking past and present, and that makes them magical.
We all like to talk about how nice it is when you pick up an old book or a magazine that’s freshly printed and you smell the paper and ink and it just gives you that magical, nostalgic, cozy feeling. And about how there is less and less of that because everything is digital now. It seems that the people working with fragrances have heard about this and have begun studying the smell of books. For instance, the books of the 18th and 19th centuries smell a bit acidic, with just a tiny whiff of vanilla and a hint of grass. Fragrance designers have put that knowledge to use in a number of ways. The New York Times developed a candle that smells like a newspaper; I suppose you’re meant to light it when you read their iPad version with your morning coffee. Wallpaper & Streidel developed a perfume for booklovers called Paper Passion. And Beautypunch produced a series called Message in a Bottle in collaboration with the perfume retailer Douglas, taking the idea of message T-shirts and translating it into perfumes.
So, why scents? Jürgen starts out by explaining how the sense of smell works. It is the second most important sense, right after seeing and before hearing. It provides information about danger, food, what vitamins our body needs, and helps us identify the right partner. It has a very interesting history as well – philosophers used to say that “smelling is a danger to civilisation” because of its primary, animalistic characteristics. Sometimes it is also referred as the “super sense” since it can trigger strong emotions, associations and memories. Proust’s madelaines have become one of literature’s most famous metaphors for triggering nostalgia. Our memories are much stronger because of smell and often come from when we were babies, and therefore evoke inexplicable feelings in us. There was an interesting study about smelling emotions – yes, smelling emotions – in which men and women were asked to smell the sweat that people produced when they were feeling different emotions (fear, anger, arousal, etc.). Apparently, women are much better at smelling emotions.
Japan is one of the biggest markets for fragrances. Designers there have even developed a chewing gum that can change your body odor for a while. Now your sweat can smell like roses! There is also underwear with a flatulence filter that prevents farts. Industry is building a brighter future for all of us!
I was amazed at how aware Beautypunch are of all the different aspects of what will eventually be the final product. They know that scent is important, of course, but also that the brand, packaging, story, name and even the retail space are equally important. It is refreshing hearing this – imagine never having to explain it to your clients again!
The talk was extremely interesting and refreshing, and it left us all wanting to learn more about the topic. I think people are more creative when they know a little bit about a wide range of topics, and I’m very excited that TYPO is inviting speakers like this.
Written by Ajda Zupančič •