Designing for death

Why coffins?

Why would you choose to work in the funeral industry?

Is it not a bit morbid?

'Well I suppose somebody has to..'

Just a small selection of reactions we often get when we say what we do for a living.

People are either genuinely inquisitive about the unusual job description or feel incredibly uncomfortable about it and won't discuss it any further. Both reactions are perfectly understandable, death is a taboo subject that many people simply do not feel comfortable with talking about.

However, once you get over the initial shock factor people do tend to open up. You can almost see them accept that maybe this is something they should be thinking about? Why should it be left to your family and friends to make such hard decisions whilst they are going through what could be the worst experience that they have had to face in their lifetime so far.

Is it fair to leave that kind of responsibility behind just because it may not be important to you? 'Why does it matter? I will be dead anyway'. The truth is yes, you will be dead, it may not matter to you, but it does for those left behind.

The funeral is the last opportunity to show the world what and who you were to those left behind. The coffin is the last place you will lie, the final resting place that your loved ones will see you, this makes the coffin itself such an important object. It is a reflection of our feelings and care, the aesthetic and finish must be right. The coffin is such an integral part of your goodbye, we do not see designing and making coffins as just the manufacturing of any other product. Every detail is discussed, designed and produced with the thought of 'would I be happy with this if it was for my loved one?'

We care because we have been through the experience ourselves, this is why we are passionate about our coffins, not because 'somebody has to' because we want to.

The issue we face is encouraging people to talk about death and all things related in the first place, and we are not alone with this challenge.

"Royal Trinity is the country's oldest hospice and a world leader in palliative care. This year it celebrates its 125th anniversary and, having observed the changing demographics of society first-hand over the course of its history, the hospice continues to strive to innovate and evolve to meet the needs of society. To date, its services have been principally focused on caring for those with a life-limiting illness after they have been diagnosed, but a chance encounter between Dallas Pounds, chief executive of Royal Trinity, and Nick de Leon, head of the service design programme at the Royal College of Art, has resulted in the development of a fascinating new project: to rethink the concept of both living and dying, and encourage users to engage with Trinity's services at an earlier stage in their lives. In doing so, the hospice also hopes to initiate a national conversation about end-of-life experiences and take the subject of death to the British high street."

"The end-of-life experience is something everybody has a vested interest in, because we're all impacted by death in one way or another," Sarah Ronald, MD of Service Design Company 'Nile', speaking on why designing for death is so important "Culturally, we spend more time and energy trying to keep people alive, while ignoring the value that we can create for those who are reaching old age or facing terminal illness."

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