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 perception 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… and that is of itself captivating and worthy of study.

Smells form part of our knowing, but are elusive, often disappearing before they can be described pinned down. Smell perception 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 smellfie guide to smellwalking.

This year I have recorded a BBC Podcast about my work and the smells identified in cities around the world. “Smellmap: Amsterdam” is in the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum where I am headed to run a sensory data visualisation workshop. I am in the process of writing up my PhD and am awaiting the opening Escales en vue, a Paris research project, in October 2018 at MAIF Social Club in le Marais.

I am a PhD (part-time) candidate in Information Experience Design (IED) a the Royal College of Art, a marathon runner and snowboarder. And I am Programme Director for Graphic Design at Canterbury Christ Church University teaching undergraduates and supervising postgraduate students on their trajectories.