Death & Design: an invitation and a challenge

Today we're announcing the launch of a new project: Death & Design. This is an invitation and challenge to designers to acknowledge the role of mortality in their own work. The website will highlight projects that use design to create meaningful conversations about the end of life.

Some of the work featured in this project is by people who identify themselves as designers, but our invitation extends to anyone who is creating space for meaningful conversations about death and dying.

Why design?

The practice of design is driven by constraints. Boundaries and requirements challenge us to look at problems from new perspectives, find creative solutions, and unlock potential. But we often fail to acknowledge the most fundamental constraint: we, and everything we do, will end.

What we are suggesting is that designers participate in the unhiding of death. We propose exposing it as a constraint on all of our designs: the death of objects, of organizations, and of ourselves. This project is part of an effort to build a community of practice around the use of design at the end of life.

Why we chose this project

As part of our research into workplace stress and methods for preventing burnout, we’ve been talking with people who deal with death and mortality more consistently than most people do: hospice nurses, chaplains and funeral home directors.

Our discussions with people working at the end of life helped us realize that our own avoidance of death means that when we arrive at the moments in our life when we must face it, we are unprepared. We don’t know how to have the kinds of conversations that we need to when they are most urgent because we spend most of our lives avoiding this difficult terrain. If we hope to do better, we must become more familiar with the landscape where life and death overlap.

Visit the project at

Nick Jehlen's picture
Nick Jehlen is a partner at The Action Mill