Students at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology recently got more than shopping choices at the school’s Student Alumni Union, which houses stores, restaurants, cafes and a theater. They also got a dose of reality.

Striving to raise awareness of poverty in America and the high number of people that the recent Great Recession has driven into homelessness, graphic designer and MFA candidate Daniel Skrok created Perception of Poverty, a series of installations that incorporate sight, sounds and scent to promote social responsibility by confronting people with poverty-focused messaging and statistics, alongside multisensory experiences that highlights the contrast between the lives of the haves and the have-nots in relation to three basic human needs: food, shelter and clothing.

“The intended outcome of Perception of Poverty is to give viewers a new appreciation on life, inspire individuals to take action and effect change in their community,” Skrok explained.

“The location of the installation focuses on areas atypical for homelessness. [This phenomenon] is typically associated with urban environments, therefore areas such as shopping malls and college campuses in suburban communities will be targeted.”

Given the oversaturation of the market with visual campaigns, Skrok figured he had much better chances of capturing people’s attention using a multisensory experience. He used a QR code to link the print elements of the campaign to digital content, and delivered the olfactory component using custom scent emission devices.

“The Exhalia Scent Diffusers easily integrate scents with digital content, such as interactive websites, videos and multi-media. The diffusers use intuitive software to control their intensity, timing and duration. A custom scent track or time-line syncs the scent emission with the video when played in Windows Media Player. The diffusers are controlled wirelessly with a USB radio transmitter,” Skrok said.

“After sight, scent is the most significant of our five senses. Scent is unique in that it is processed in the limbic system, which is the area of the brain that is tied to memory and emotion. Viewers experience the contrast of the three basic human needs of shelter, food and clothing. For integration to be effective, the visuals, audio and fragrances must be congruous. The hope is to expose viewers to compelling visuals and powerful messaging while integrating scent, creating a link in time. The next time a viewer smells fresh baked bread or clean laundered shirts, subconsciously they will be transported back into that moment in time.”
Perception of Poverty is Skrok’s latest endeavor. His other multisensory and awareness-building projects include motion graphics commercials “Hungry” and “Cease Poverty”

The Experiences

Here’s a snapshot of the three sets of experiences that Daniel Skrok created to engage consumers:
Shelter is experienced by a visual depiction of a safe, suburban, indoor environment versus a dangerous, urban, outdoor environment. The auditory sounds are quiet and serene versus loud [noises such as] traffic, sirens and crowds. The olfactory component is fresh, clean, air versus diesel, fumes, concrete and electricity.

Food is experienced by a visual depiction of fresh, baked, artisan bread versus spoiled, moldy bread. The auditory sounds are of laughter, party with family and friends versus quiet and solitary. The olfactory component is that of fresh baked bread, dough and crust versus spoiled, moldy bread and acetone.

Clothing is experienced by a visual depiction of choice, featuring clean, laundered shirts versus no choice, featuring a dirty, worn shirt. The auditory sounds are of white noise. The olfactory component is fabric, cotton, and laundry versus fabric, body odor and sweat.

Source: Daniel Skrok,

The Team

  • Creator: Daniel Skrok, MFA candidate, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Scent sculptor and designer: Christophe Laudamiel, DreamAir LLC
  • Scent emission device developer: Yvan Régeard, Exhalia
  • Chief advisor: Daniel DeLuna, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Associate advisors: Shaun Foster and Loret Steinberg, Rochester Institute of Technology

Perception of Poverty from Daniel Skrok on Vimeo.