Meet the Woman Making the Subway Smell Better — One Sticker at a Time

by and

These Stickers Make the Subway Smell (A Little) Better.

Video production by Anna Hiatt for the Village Voice

“If you smell something, smell something else.” The phrase is a play on the Department of Homeland Security’s campaign “If You See Something, Say Something.” It’s also Angela H. Kim’s way of making a trip onto the platform a little more pleasant.

Kim, a senior at the School of Visual Arts, started posting signs around various subway stops with her own slogan targeting odors instead of suspicious activity. As a graphic design and interaction design major, she initially made the posters for a class while brainstorming thesis ideas that bring her sense of design and the sense of smell together.

Kim’s signs look as official as the usual MTA route-change posters, with one noticeable difference: colorful scratch-and-sniff stickers with the floral scents of lavender, vanilla, sweet magnolia, orchid blossom, and tuberose.

These playful rogue stickers aren’t MTA sanctioned, but Kim hopes to bring a larger problem to light: sanitation issues in the subway.

After years of traveling around the city, Kim stopped noticing the reek of the subway until someone from outside New York mentioned it to her. “I guess that’s why I didn’t notice the bad smell,” she says. “I was so used to it.” So she decided to stimulate straphangers’ sense of smell in a creative way that also showcased her talents.

In December of 2015, Kim posted the stickers at the Union Square, Herald Square, and Canal Street stations. Since then, she has decided to continue the project with even more posters, spreading awareness about subway sanitation and odors — that is, if you’re not already all too aware.

Find out more about Kim’s projects at her website.