When I was given the task to choose a project to develop for longer than a month, the first thing that I thought of was a request for a complete branding by a friend of mine who owns a funeral agency in Bulgaria.
This was echoing in my mind for a while, often making me think about what design approach should be undertaken when working with a grieving target audience while at the same time being innovative; as well as the metaphorical visual representation of the sensitive topic of death.
Sharing this at a group tutorial with my group and the tutor, it appeared like an interesting and brave subject to base my further research on; while at the same time being scary and heavy as a topic.
However, being a huge lover of challenges and the unexplored, I jumped into it; hoping to discover interesting information and be inspired in my research journey and create a project that reflects on death; which could then inform my branding project pending in the future.
I started off by researching the visual language currently used in funeral agency brandings, concentrating on the UK and Bulgaria.
Observations include that the approach is completely different; the UK making no visual reference to the topic of death; a friendly, subtle customer approach, as opposed to the Bulgarian agencies, which are explicit, even shocking and inconsiderate.
While British agency brand names were mostly surnames, brand names in Bulgaria included Karma, Sweet Dreams, Heaven, Second Life, and many others.
Essence of death
The First Idea
After weeks of researching the topic of death, traditions based on culture, different religious beliefs, unconventional graveyards, memento mori and a thousand others, including I once had coffee at a graveyard in Cardiff once observing typography and stories; I started putting together a book to become the roofop of all of my research.
The idea behind it was the following:
The book only lives while you’re reading it, in the second you close it, it dies. This is represented by a red thread that enters all of the pages, resembling a heartbeat, changing shape to become ‘the string of fate’ and a red ribbon around your finger (don’t forget).
It tells you everything about death and how useful it is to nurture the fear of death. It is called ‘Don’t forget you’re going to die’; and is circular – the last page leads you to the first page.
The red thread which escapes the dimensions of the book at the last page leads you to another book that tells you about afterlife beliefs; extending the book which ‘has died’ to afterlife.
I came up with a script to include, but at the time the topic would consume me to such an extent, that I thought that the text was meaningless, so did not show it to anybody either. Now, reading it a while after, I realise the potential it has.
Don’t forget you must die
Yes. This book is all about death. Your death and my death. How terrifying it is and how useful it might be to nurture this fear and to linger on the prospect more than we’re willing to.
WE ALWAYS HIDE FROM WHAT WE’RE SCARED OF. Look death in the face. That will make you invincible
I don’t want to live forever, but I fear death too. Did you know we’re connected? Like any other book, I only exist while you hold me in your hands, turning page by page, reding and breathing life to my words, but I know I’ll die in the very second you close me. This will happen soon, I know it, but I’ll continue to exist in your mind.
If you only remember one thing about me may it be this. Life is a cycle that includes death. Death is a part of life, just like the night is a part of the day.
Death is natural. It’s real and it’s all around. llIt’s also not only a human thing. I don’t mean to scare you, but you are holding a corpse in your hands – I know a tree died a while ago for me to exist. Your food was a dead plant or a dead animal. I’ll also be happy to die so that you can read another book.
Life – available for limited time only.
I don’t have a consciousness on my own so I rely on yours, but If I’m lucky and if you have enough time and attention to spare, my lifespan will be 10 minutes.
That’s enough because I know what my mission is – to meet you and make you think about the big one that many people don’t like to talk about – for me and all other books, that’s enough.. I did what I wanted and I wanted what I did.
Of 7,000,000,000 humans, 5% know their life purpoe with crystal clarity, but what is 100% sure is that each of them will die. Including you.
Look at the facts and accept the inevitable. Statistics: If you’re lucky, you’ll live around 78 years. Here’s what 78 summers look like, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx , If you’re 21, you have around 57 summers left. If you’re 45, you probably have 33.
Imagine all the things you could do in your 78x365x15 = 9485 hours of consciousness. The problem is, you think you have time. How do you spend it?
If I were you, and had hands and eyes and consciousness I wouldn’t waste a second – 87 is a lot but it’s not an eternity. Tomorrow might be the best day of your life.
But tomorrow might also be the day your whole life turned around. Are you ready to die tomorrow?
HOW? Most people say that if they could choose, they would prefer a quick, painless death without notice. BUT according to statistics, you will most certainly be in the vast majority of people
to 2 thousand?
LOVE OF LIFE OR FEAR OF DEATH? or both
Below the conscious awareness, a fear of death underlies almost all other fears, phobias and anxieties. This makes it seem more controllable.
We leave many things aside because we’re scared – of failure, spiders, taking our dreams seriously.
Death is not an event, but a process which is present during the life experience, controlling and perturbing it. Comprehending and accepting your own mortality could contribute to rebalancing your life to turn it to a worthwhile experience.
If you had 30 days left what would you do? How would you spend them? Is this how you are spending your life now?
Learn from death. Here’s what most people regret on their deathbeds: I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself and not what’s expected of me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard I wish I had the courage to express my feelings I wish I stayed in touch with my friends I wish I let myself be happier
IMAGINE YOURSELF AT YOUR DEATHBED. Are you happy with the life you’ve led so far?
Scare yourself about the only thing you need to fear. Nurture the fear of death, realize the shortness of your days and alter your live and priorities.
BENEFIRS OF NURTURTING THE FEAR? Memento mori A skull on your desk would be good for you to keep you focused – – https://soberfornow.wordpress. com/2013/01/22/having-a-skull-onyour-desk-is-good-for-you-2/
WHAT’S LEFT? 1888-1945 At the end, all your life, efforts, achievements, degrees, failures and wins will be hidden in between two numbers. Your life will, one day, equal a dash. A single dash. Just enjoy the ride.
AFTERLIFE? No one know what death is all about. Some books say that there are other people apart from you – you are my world and all I know just like you know Earth and your own existence. But I can tell you many fairytales about what happens to people after they die… http://lmrpcc.org.au/admin/ wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Customs-Beliefs-Death-Dying.pdf
Looking for an universal answer of what death is, I reached a point where I could not proceed to develop the concept I had started working on because of personal reasons – so the only opportunities I had were either to decide to give up and fail or start over again.
Of course I chose the second one but I decided to let my intuition lead the way this time; my lovely intuition that I had neglected so badly – it replaced forced research.
When this happens, nobody’s opinion matters anymore. I did not do things to show at tutorials; I was self-paced and self-directed. I did not seek any feedback until I reached a nearly finished piece.
My motivation was not to try to please other people with my decisions – the only one who had to be pleased with the results was me.
My most recent death experience was that my grandmother died less than a year ago and this was the first death of such a close family member in my life. Many people still say that I was the only person she ever loved.
My whole childhood is associated with her presence and one of my most vivid memories is her reading a story to me. A rather sad, but beautiful story. Which surprisingly also tells a story about a grandmother and a graddaughter… and death.
Probably I was, indeed, someone she loved, as she still is, obviously with me, helping me with my decisions and inspiring my work.
After all, this is the most real shape death could ever take for somebody still alive- only a personal experience, loss of a loved one, which is always strictly individual for everyone.
This is what mine is.
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen.
None of the previous interpretations syncronised with the visual response and overall emotion that I exprienced when reading the story.
They felt distant to me, some were trying to make the girl look overly pretty and neat, which is not the case in the story; vibrant happy colors; they were somehow wrong.
Developing the character was a pleasant challenge.
I imagined a little girl with very captivating big, sad, honest and kind, pure eyes. Dignity and courage mixed with fear and fragility. Beauty and fairness in the city-enemy, the ugly, dark surroundings.
The book conceptually takes the shape of a square matchbox; where the pages are placed in a tray inside of a sleeve.
In spite of advice suggesting otherwise; the pages are not binded, but separate; thus making a reference to real matches.
The exhibition space was planned to be a dark space, which includes eye-capturing details to direct the eye and interest people to look at the book, which is a small and traditional looking piece looked from the outside, but intricate and emotive on the inside.
To add to the experience, matchbox business cards made of custom made hand printed paper and traditional letterpress were designed to be given away to the visitors of the exhibition.
Overall the Final Major Project was a very interesting journey for me, I had to overcome many personal setbacks, safe to say that I invested all of my emotional and psychological resources in it.
No research can replace pure intuition and emotion, which are the core elements to fulfilling and touching results.
In the end I can say that I am really happy with the final outcome and I truly believe that my emotion is present in the piece – I can only hope that this will reach my audience as well.