Sunday, January 3, 2010

Olfactory Design: David Ricart and The 21st Century Love Letter

Photo: David Ricart

A year ago I got an email from a young graphic designer named David Ricart. He had heard me speak at the New York Academy of Sciences and now, for his MFA thesis at the School of Visual Arts, he wanted to do a project on scent communication using body odor.

His idea was to create a system for the exchange of personal body scent that would leverage the intimate emotional power of scent on behalf of people who are physically separated. Ricart asked me for some advice on collecting and sampling BO. Since his concept sounded weird enough to be good I was happy to do so. 

Ricart recently wrote again to let me know he had completed and successfully defended his thesis. The BO project became TOLO: The 21st Century Love Letter. It uses cleverly modified T-shirts and a mailing tube to provide a new channel of remote, interpersonal, chemosensory communication.

David Ricart has transformed a routine scientific method for collecting BO into a creative product concept with an appealing visual design that addresses a real psychological need.

Very cool.


BitterGrace said...

I admire the concept, but somehow it seems soulless compared to the time-honored practice of swooning over your lover's soiled underclothes, a la J. Joyce and his Nora.

Avery Gilbert said...


TOLO is the medium not the message. Even Joyce's swoonings were written on soulless paper.

Or are you saying the soulfulness was a property of Nora's knickers? Perhaps so--at least at a (how to phrase it?) practical level.

People adapt to the available technology. I bet there are lots of soulful one-handed typists in internet chat rooms.

Avery Gilbert said...


P.S. I just googled "james joyce nora" and it auto-completed to
"james joyce nora fart" so I read a few entries.

OMG. TMI. Yowza.

BitterGrace said...

Re soulfulness--yes, I was considering the importance of the medium. There's a certain formal appeal to garments that enhances the olfactory experience.

"soulful one-handed typists"--eek.