Stephen Douch‘s project, Last Orders, is one of the very few projects that have stuck in my memory from New Designers. Too often New Designers is a load of unoriginal, not innovative, same old regurgitated ideas. Stephen was studying a design MA at Central Saint Martins under one of my old tutors Matt Malpass.
The project deals with something deeper than designer’s typical concerns. It doesn’t come from a place totally preoccupied with design theory about form and function. It comes from a place of social concern. It’s about our societal norms and problems. Our British relationship with death is not necessarily as healthy as it could be. Last Orders attempts to improve the services around death, for the person who dies as well as people around them.
And it’s all done with a huge attention to detail: the user experience is meticulously thought out. The designer had an answer for every question I could think to ask. He is actively seeking partners to take this idea forward, so please do get in contact (contact details upon request) – particularly if you work in the Department of Work and Pensions.
In Stephen Douch’s words:
It is becoming too expensive for the poor to die. The average cost of dying has risen by 80% since 2004 to £7,622 and almost 1 in 5 people intend to leave their funeral cost to family and friends or the State. Society faces a perfect storm of economic stagnation, an aging population and a poverty gap not seen since the Victorian era. Without change we may see a return of the pauper’s funeral.
This proposal is intended to explore how death poverty can be addressed against a backdrop of state welfare cuts, where providing more money simply isn’t an option. It explores the role death rituals play in modern British society and critiques the material culture found in the funeral industry.
The goal of this study is to understand if benefits can be gained by de-sanitising death, and attempts to leverage rampant individualism to re-imagine modern death rituals. In changing preconceptions to funeral rites this study highlights that both the poor and wider society can regain ownership of their deaths but concludes with a need to reconsider legislative and political ideology.
A joint public and private sector service which enables people to plan for their end of life, free of charge. Last Orders brings families together to help plan for the future and prepares them for the eventual passing of a loved one.
Last Orders is a global approach to issues surrounding death poverty. It attempts to exclude stigmatisation through inclusivity. By people choosing to be different it will become more acceptable to make economy funeral choices. Although this may have its detractors they will have to contend with the fact that it’s “what he/she would have wanted”. It’s hard to contend with that statement when the person who made it has died.
In Issuing their Last Orders individuals perform a selfless act which provides emotional support to loved ones and breaks reliance on the state. It aims to break down the taboos surrounding death through frank conversations, freeing people from the standardised funeral by focussing on their preferences for simplicity, certainty and affordability.
Graphic design guidance: Maki Ota.
Talk to the designer: email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.