Tealeaves Folio



Inclusive Design: Making Sense of Scents

Humans can distinguish at least one trillion distinct smells, yet many people find it difficult to precisely describe them. Due to this, the world of aroma has traditionally borrowed its language from the other senses.


Understanding that inclusivity is in the nature of tea, how can we use the principles of Inclusive Design to ultimately enhance the ability to explore the world, satisfy essential needs and experience joy and wonder through aroma?


Discover the TEALEAVES x Microsoft project on LanguageOfAroma.com


Margaret Price is an explorer of the relationship between culture, humanity, and, technology. She draws from marriage therapy, philosophy, biology, psychology to deconstruct how to embrace and sustain what makes us human in a digital age. Margaret studies human nature and monitors the cultural landscape to identify areas for creative and strategic growth. Her passion for identifying latent human needs, framing opportunities, and fueling experimentation has taken her to over 40 countries. Margaret’s career has placed her on the forefront of product innovation, organizational transformation and inclusive design.


At Microsoft, Margaret’s strategy and content is featured in the Inclusive Toolkit which was awarded by IXDA,  nominated as a FastCO World Changing Idea., and was featured in the Smithsonian – Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. As an expert in design curriculum, and service design, her courses have been attended by over 12,000 at Microsoft and are taught in universities around the world. Most recently, within NYU, MIT, and, Brown.

Aroma can elicit joy, transport us immediately to a different place, or even inspire us to purchase products. The word “scent” comes from Latin, meaning to feel or perceive. “Our sense of smell is directly connected to our emotions. Smells trigger very powerful and deep-seated emotional responses,” said Kate Fox, a social anthropologist.

Ultimately, aroma has a power to enhance the human experience. We breathe over 23,000 times a day — that’s 23,000 moments of taking in information. We might easily register potently negative aromas (walking by a sewer) or positive aromas (walking by a bakery), but the subtleties in between can get lost in our goal-oriented days. In our current cultural quest for presence and mindfulness, why aren’t we more conscious of the scents around us and the roles they play in our lives? How many of us can describe the scent we’re taking in? The human ability to recognize scent and communicate aroma is often limited.

Similar to wine, a tea vocabulary feels inaccessible or even elitist to most. When calling wine “vinegar” at a nice restaurant for example, I — a wine novice — was met with disdain. So, what might going beyond descriptive language do for us? For example, describing a scent like “this smells like a joyful sunny afternoon.” Yet, one person’s joy is another persons sorrow. Much like an emotional vocabulary encourages self-awareness, enables framing, and leads to healthy relationships with ourselves and those around us, an aromatic vocabulary could do the same.

Our scent processing power can depend on a variety of factors: congestion, literacy, self-awareness, a trained nose.

What if we could recognize, understand, and communicate aroma? How might we connect with ourselves and the world around us in more ways?


Extract from Margaret Price’s article: ‘Making Sense of Scents’


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#OverACupOfTealeaves: At TEALEAVES, we believe that the best “condiment” to any cup of TEALEAVES is a story to tell and wisdom to share.


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