smellwalking in Brooklyn

Smellwalking in Brooklyn – September 2014 photograph ©Brian Harkin 2014

My name is Kate McLean, an artist and designer, creator of smellmaps of cities around the world. I focus on human experience of  urban smellscapes – rendering it as “eye-visible” through mapping. While the visual dominates and the digital distances, I believe we should re-connect with our sensing selves so as to relate to where, and who we are. I find the sense of smell intriguing, elusive and ephemeral… captivating and worthy of study.

Smells form part of our knowing, but are elusive, often disappearing before they can be described pinned down. Smell experience is an invisible and currently under-presented dataset with strong connections to emotions and memory. I am part of a small but growing number of innovative practitioners committed to the study and capture of this highly nuanced sensory field.

The tools of my trade include: individual group smellwalks, individual smellwalks (the “smellfie”), smell sketching, collaborative smellwalks, graphic design, motion graphics, smell generation and smell diffusion, all united by mapmaking.

Download a copy of my DIY “smellfie” guide to smellwalking.

During 2018 one of my works, “Smellmap Amsterdam” was on exhibition in “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision” at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum where I ran a “sensory data visualisation” workshop in May. I was honoured to work over the summer months with MAIF Social Club in le Marais, Paris and to contribute to the exhibition about urban mobilities, Escales en vue, with Smellmap: Le Marais.

I have just submitted my PhD thesis “Nose-first: practices of smellwalking and smellscape mapping” within Information Experience Design (IED) at the Royal College of Art for examination.

By preference I am outside; running cross-country marathons, cycling, sea-swimming or snowboarding. I work at Canterbury Christ Church University where I am Programme Director for Graphic Design, teaching undergraduates and supervising postgraduate students.