Scent Vase

(Case Study)

A handmade ceramic vase that displays the beauty of a flower through scent.

For this project I used the „Design for Emotion“ model after Desmet to design a product for well-being that addresses multiple senses.

I focussed on olfaction, the sense of smell, as the core principle of the design. Prior to designing the scent vase, I did a 10 weeks research project on olfactory design with designers, therapists and medicine students from The Netherlands, Ireland and Romania. The insights I gained about the connection of scents and emotions inspired me to this project.



My aim was to create a product that helps its user to take a quick refreshing break from the daily routine. Because of all the screens and the automation around us, I decided that the object would have to trigger sensory reactions and have a positive emotional effect to add value to the users‘ life.

My research on olfaction showed me how powerful the impact of scents can be on regulating our emotions. Humans can differentiale between 400.000 smells and like to all sensory impressions, emotional values are being assigned through the perception and evaluation of our experiences. However, our sense of smell is so powerful due to the direct and un-filtered connection of the olfactory tract to the limbic system, and therewith, the amygdala – our emotional processor and hard drive.



To design an object that incorporates sensorial qualities with a focus on olfaction towards the well-being of the user that blends into the everyday life.

To get a clear idea of the working principle, I observed the general smelling behaviour of people and discovered a pattern: the neck is usually bent downwards and the nose and the upper lip form a dip where the object that is being smelled is inserted. I looked into reasons for this behaviour and discovered „active smelling“.

Active smelling means that the user consciously picks up a source of scent and comes close to it. According to my research, this increases the amount of scent molecules that enter the nasal cavity from 2% to 20%.

I decided to create a container for scent particles and chose ceramics as a material due to its tactile and visual properties.

I looked for soft, rounded forms during the inspiration and ideation phase to address the well-being aspect of the design.

My choice was an abstraction of the anatomy of a flower; the bowl at the top resembles the calyx, the neck and the body the stem while the scent intake reminds of a leaf.

I chose essential oils as a scent carrier because, in opposite to synthetic odours, they contain psychoactive chemical compounds as a result from the distillation process from organic materials.

The scent vase tries to tackle the concept of a vase as a medium to display the visual beauty of a plant. The geometry is scaled in such a way, that the vase can be placed anywhere in the house and easily picked up with one hand. The conical form prevents the volatile essential oil to escape too quickly.

All vases are handmade with slip casting.

The diagram is an excerpt of my research paper. It shows the preferences of a sample group that suffer from anxieties with a tendency towards sweet, fresh and acidic scent profiles as having a positive impact on their mood.

My proposal for a scent would therefore be orange or grapefruit. These two scents are also applied across different disciplines in therapy.