Kate McLean is a graphic designer who brings to her work and discipline a deep awareness of the environment by highlighting the multi-sensory nature of human understanding. While the visual tends to dominate graphic design, no single sense operates in isolation. McLean believes that design can – and should – be multimodal, incorporating each of the five senses we possess.
Smells form part of our knowing, but are elusive, disappearing before they can be fixed in place. By focusing on olfactory perception, McLean joins a small but growing number of innovative practitioners committed to the study and capture of this highly nuanced, highly personal sensory field.
The tools of her trade are simple and effective. Walking through the cities of Europe and North America with a notepad in hand, McLean is led first and foremost by her nose and by a strong desire to discover what makes the places she travels distinct. This process is always collaborative, formed by the observations of local participants and by the relationships that arise from these encounters.
On Thursday, April 10, 2014, from 18:30 to 21:30, Smellmap: Amsterdam, an exhibition of McLean’s olfactory exploration of the city, performed in collaboration with Bernardo Fleming of International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), was on show at Mediamatic, Amsterdam. Presenting the extent of her working process, the display included maps, motion graphics, research notes and sketchbooks, plus a selection of collected smells for visitors to sample.
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