Death timeline, life goals: Things I discovered while briefly studying death + design

At some point in the last year I fell in love with death, design and the intersection therein. I can’t recall any singular moment or event that caused this. I’d read a series of excellent books (notably Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi) and had become enchanted with the authors and their stories. I’d subsequently seen the articulate Lucy Kalanithi, doctor and surviving wife of Paul, bring a large room of people to tears as she told her story from the main stage at Medicine X. Last summer I attended a family friend’s meaningful and moving memorial, and finally attended the End Well conference (an event at the intersection of death & design) in San Francisco last December.

Death is an area of healthcare that still feels very mystical. Designing for ‘end of life’ seems like uncharted territory, supporting this expedition into the unknown. For the aspects of death we do understand, there are many opportunities for improvement, starting with the plain fact that many people have trouble talking about — or even thinking about — death. I came to this work wanting to find a way to help support the overall death experience, and I also wondered whether there were opportunities for making end-of-life communication more visual. (Visualizing health is a bit of a hobby of mine.) So I decided to spend some time researching opportunities.

Katie McCurdy