Scent Design (from an amateur perspective) – Part One

As with most works of art, an enormous amount of thought and time goes into crafting a fragrance. There are so many ways to go about creating one, and the inspiration for a perfume can range from a single word to a novel to a painting to a song. But how does the actual development occur after inspiration is discovered?

I met with a personal hero of mine (who won’t be named for now), who explained the long and arduous process of perfume art. A perfumer and an evaluator (the liaison between the customer and the perfumer), work together as a team of artists to produce beauty. In my case, I was to serve as all three: the perfumer, evaluator, and consumer.

I received a grant last Spring from Stanford University to create a perfume. The scent was to be named ‘Spring’. The idea behind it was to capture my interpretation of what it means to be in the midst of this season. I had created perfumes in the past, but this was the first time I was actually funded for it and expected to display it publicly. While this was an incredible honor, it also served as a rare opportunity for me that had the potential to produce fantastic results if executed properly.

As a Chemical Engineer, I was trained heavily in analytics and loved problem-solving with hard data and numbers. However, as a lover of design thinking, fast prototyping and human-centric design was part of my nature. These differing methods of attacking projects posed two options for this creation to occur:

1.  To write down what the goals of the scent were and break down methods to achieve it. Next would be selection of the path, and then execution.

2.  To simply go for it.

Which road was I to take?

Stay tuned to find out which path I chose – analytical science or unabashed artistic freedom!

Image of Sniffapalooza's visit to Molinard, Grasse, France - July 2010


About Ellen Thuy Le

Ellen Thuy Le (’13, Chemical Engineering at Stanford University) is most proud of her current role as the President of the Omicron Chapter of Sigma Psi Zeta, Inc. When she is not slaving over problem sets, she is sniffing out the latest fragrances at the Stanford Mall, writing songs on her red ukulele, jogging on campus in hopes of discovering new places, eating froyo or dreaming up new ways to design meaningful and interesting experiences for people. She is addicted to Gmail and social media, and probably spends more time reading articles every night than sleeping.