As a third year Graphic Design student you are asked to undertake a final major project, one which is self-directed. Personally I wanted to create something that had personal meaning, and something I could link to a social cause.

My family has a history of Alzheimers. This includes my dear grandfather who has deteriorated to the point where he cannot function without the help of his carers. He no longer remembers who I am, and would look at me as if I were a stranger. It’s hard to deal with that as a loved one; the man you once knew to be full of life, laughter and smiles, is now an empty shell of his former self. Knowing this, I decided to do something for him as well as the loved ones who are affected.

During my research about the disease and how it affects a person, I soon discovered a documentary about the power of music and how it can make a person who was suffering from dementia come alive and feel happy. It got me wondering… could smells do the same? After asking myself this question I found that there was some research into this, but it hadn’t been fully explored.

I wanted to bring awareness and do something for the carers. My concept is to create a customisable kit of ordinary smells which could become a story telling experience and help the patients reminisce and bring back treasured memories. For most of us, the ability to access memories matters in more ways than you can believe, and smells could help unlock those memories for people suffering from this horrible disease. 

Have you ever associated a certain smell to a loved one? Or even an experience? In my case smells make me remember the people who have passed through my life over the years. It may be a particular perfume an old lover used, or the smell of freshly cut grass taking you back to one happy summer – the possibilities are endless.

One distinct smell of freshly baked biscuits almost always transports me back to my late great grandmother kitchen in South Africa, where I would sit as a child and help in the baking process. You could say I was having a ‘Proustian Memory.’

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