OverviewProject OutcomeHackathon KickoffDiscoverDefineDesignFinal DesignDesign DecisionReflection


Solution design for anosmia, a lost sense of smell


Visual design
Product strategy


For the 2021 Estée Lauder-sponsored hackathon, our team developed "SME11", a solution that aims to help people with anosmia diagnose their conditions, experience scents in an innovative way, and recover from weakened olfactory senses.


9 days (Oct 2021)


3 UX Designers (me)
1 UX Engineer


SME11 - helping those who lost their smell

Our solution to help those suffering from anosmia was “SME11”, a service that helps them understand their conditions and experience scents visually, aurally, and spatially. It was born out of our desire to address one important problem -

Loss of smell should not prevent one from enjoying perfume products nor limit them from being fragrant

Receiving the EPAM Innovation Award

Out of the 505 participants and 90 projects submitted, SME11 was awarded with the EPAM Innovation for Accessibility Award and selected as one of the finalists for the grand prize.

Team photo during award announcement

Our team of 4 CMU students was especially thrilled that the hackathon judges saw a real possibility of improving the lives of people with anosmia via SME11.

Final product demo video (4 min)

PROJECT kickoff

Condition that directly affected us all

The 2021 Estée Lauder hackathon was held virtually for 9 days. This year's hackathon focused on accessibility, and asked participants to design a creative solution for people with disability.

“Develop an accessible & inclusive solution to tackle challenges that people with disabilities face on a daily basis”

We unanimously agreed to focus on anosmia because a family member of our teammate recently lost his sense of smell due to COVID-19. We were all familiar with the condition, having witnessed many friends struggle with a temporary loss of smell at the peak of the pandemic.

Building user empathy upfront was critical

Given the time constraints, we recognized it would be difficult to equally attend to all phases of the design process. We hence decided to dedicate more time to the initial two phases, Discover and Define, for two primary reasons -

Finding empathy with our target users through extensive research and deliberation of needs will lead to a better solution
Defining a concrete set of values for target users is our team's most important success criteria

Guiding principles to define our own success

During the project kickoff, we established several principles to guide our solution design process. First, we agreed not to develop another typical app that is already prevalent and envisioned a truly innovative solution. Second, we aimed to design a product with high potential for impact to our users. Finally, we intended to build a solution that not only benefits its users but also adds business value for the solution provider

We set out to develop a practical solution that both enriches the lives of those suffering from anosmia and benefits the business


A severe disability, but invisible and overlooked

Anosmia is a serious condition that impacts millions of people. However, there is a lack of awareness and those suffering from anosmia are often overlooked because their conditions are not "visible.” We set out to acknowledge this by designing an experience that is both personal and tailored to individual users.

Initial research finding during discovery phase

For some, there is hope for partial recoverability

Our initial research and review of medical literature led to a couple important facts. First, anosmia conditions span across a range of severities from mild symptoms to chronic disability. Second, conditions for people with non-congenital anosmia can be treated by addressing specific root causes of the condition.

Natural joy of smell abruptly taken away

Regardless of the severity of conditions, everyone with anosmia shared how demoralizing it can be to lose smell. In interviews with several COVID-19 patients who had recently lost their sense of smell, they recounted the distressing days when everything both smelled and tasted bland.


What can Estée Lauder bring to the table?

Given that Estée Lauder is a major player in the cosmetics industry, we naturally drew a connection to its product lines. We particularly identified an opportunity to leverage ELC's capabilities as a perfume manufacturer to help patients with anosmia.

Brand values for Estée Lauder Companies

Problem - limited experience with perfumes

Although people with anosmia encounter numerous challenges in their daily lives, we prioritized addressing one main problem with a solution that is both pragmatic (creates business value) and impactful (benefits target users).

People with anosmia do not have the same access to purchase, experience, and enjoy perfumes as other people to

Distinct values for two different user groups

Considering the wide range of anosmia conditions, we needed to develop a solution that is broad enough to reach more than 1 specific target user group. In other words, our solution would have to address the full spectrum of anosmia patients, whose condition varies from mild and temporary to chronic.

Temporary anosmia with mild conditions - help expedite the recovery process and regain lost senses
Chronic anosmia with total loss of smell - enable the experience and pleasure of using perfume in a non-olfactory manner

How might we help people across all degrees of anosmia experience and love perfume products while meeting their individual needs?


Concept ideations for viable solution

Our team generated a number of novel ideas to solve the underlying challenge.  Two in particular stood out as applicable to our goal -

Snapchat filter using AR

Mixed reality to create an immersive experience

Estée Lauder had recently piloted a Snapchat filter that uses augmented reality to market their perfume products.

Observing this, we also considered using virtual / augmented reality to create a multi-sensory (visual, auditory, and spatial) experience of perfume scents.

Aroma kit for diagnosing scent loss

My recollection of using an aroma test kit during a wine tasting session triggered this idea.

In addition, several medical research suggested the effectiveness of a smell test at diagnosing and identifying weakened olfactory senses.

Aroma scent kit used for wine training

Wireframing for an optimal user flow

Once we defined our product idea, we wireframed user flows and mapped out the various touch points between our potential product and target users. Because our design involved several user touch points including the test kit, mobile app, and virtual reality feature, building a seamless user flow was paramount.

Seamless experience with multiple touch-points

Most importantly, we ensured that the sequence of user processes accounts for the range of anosmia patients, both temporary and chronic - for example, sending a smell kit to a chronic anosmia patient would be senseless.

Prototype design with mood board

For inspiration, we studied design patterns from existing products associated with human senses, such as wine tasting apps, perfume commerce shops, and meditation platforms.

Screenshots of design patterns referenced

Primary task flows for the key features

Our team used Figma to quickly mock up screen designs based on our final user flow. As the team's product designer, I developed the UI for task #2, "Completing self-diagnosis" to identify weakened senses.


Service that enables anosmia patients "experience" scent for the first time

From diagnosing one's olfactory condition to treating it through repeated exposure, SME11 aims to help those with anosmia. It brings perfume products closer to those who cannot smell by presenting them through a multi-sensory experience.


Show us your favorite scent, conceptually

Answer a few questions about your favorite scent.

Value proposition

Based on your choice of images and words, we curate a list of perfume recommended just for you.


Understand the scents you might have trouble smelling

Use the kit samples to test whether you can smell certain scents stronger or weaker than others.

Value proposition

Better understand your conditions by knowing the scents you might currently lack.


Immerse yourself in scents like never before

Explore new perfume scents visually, aurally, and spatially through mixed reality.

Value proposition

Enable the multi-sensory experience of exploring and discovering your preferred perfume scent.


Purchase a perfume to help reinforce your lost smell

In-app purchase of recommended perfumes with base scents that can stimulate your smell.

Value proposition

Help expedite the recovery process through smell training and repeated exposure to weaker senses.

design decision

Empathetic visual treatment for target users


The biggest challenge we confronted

Our biggest challenge was developing one solution that can help the full spectrum of anosmia patients.We had to ensure our solution is both original and pragmatic while accounting for the edge cases of anosmia.

I believe that we were able to overcome this challenge by investing more time in the earlier project phases, Discover and Design, which allowed us to not only build empathy with the target users but also clearly define the problem to address.

My very first hackathon experience

This experience has taught me about the importance of collaborative problem solving in a time/resource-constrained environment - I learned how to promote a respectful and productive dialogue by effectively speaking out my opinions while appreciating divergent ideas from my teammates.