It was the social theorist Max Weber who identified progressive disenchantment as an underlying process of modernity. More recently, this creed of modern thinking has increasingly been challenged. Thus, enchantment often evokes the sublime and refers to an aura of authentic presence. Moreover, enchantment has been used as an analytical lense to look at consumer culture as well as new worlds of work. Accordingly, symbolic manipulation is used to enchant customers and employees.

Visual representations of smell are one of the core themes of our presence on Instagram: Wheel, circle, and pie have recently appeared as recurring and influential visual metaphors. The fragrance wheel created by Michael Edwards is perhaps the most prominent example these days. But the history of visualizations demonstrates that this is only one example out of many.  The visual metaphor of the circle or the wheel has been used to classify urine smells. The colour, smell, and even taste of urine was used to both identify particular illnesses and provide patient prognoses, from Hippocrates to the Victorian era. The practice, called uroscopy or uromancy, was, according to the Doctor’s Review, “once the number-one way to diagnose disease — and predict the future”.

The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Database is a prominent go-to for all things health when it comes to cosmetics. Last February, Unilever joined this fragrance disclosure scheme. Accordingly, Unilever announced a bold new initiative to provide detailed information on fragrance ingredients for all products in its multibillion-dollar portfolio of personal care brands, including Dove, Noxzema, Lever 2000 and NEXXUS. The announcement was characterized as a major move that could dramatically alter the personal care and fragrance markets.

The ephemeral materiality of scent eludes the conventions of visual representation. Instead, the specific sensory qualities of the sense of smell remind us of the many constraints of our snapshot society. Thus, one of the more recent projects initiated by Scent Culture Institute is an open collection of visual material that addresses the visual challenges of scent culture: How are scents rendered visual? This is the unterlying question of the insights (e.g. images, scetches, logos, posters, ads, snapshots, clips and pictures etc.) that we share on Instagram.