Vessel is a time based experience spread over several months designed to help people consider their wishes for end of life, death, body disposition and memorialization.
As designers (especially while we’re in school), we see and create a lot of projects that are of ideal things for the idealized life: food delivery services, drones, and one more app for productivity.
We wanted to take on the topic of death because it’s so rarely addressed in design. We don’t think about it, we don’t talk about it, and we definitely don’t design for it.Group project for an Experience Design course at CCA, taught by Aynne Valencia and Alexander Baumgardt.
In order to begin designing for End of Life, we had to do a lot of research – secondary research, talking to “death experts” (Hospice workers, Chaplains, Death Doulas, Social Workers and more), and we interviewed over 30 people of different ages, cultures and beliefs.
We wanted to understand what people’s relationships with death are like, what death traditions they have been brought up with, and what are their wishes for their own end of life.
Unsurprisingly, we found that Death is a wicked problem.
Death touches on several hard and complex areas in life: law, religion, psychology, healthcare, economics, societal taboos and familial customs.
We listed 16 problem areas that we wanted to tackle, and ended up narrowing those down to just a few:
Our primary insight suggests that many of these issues were alleviated when individuals close to the person who passed knew the wishes & needs of that person regarding their end of life, death and post-death.
Most conversations about those wishes happen when someone is facing death, or actively dying. But some of us don’t get to prepare — we live, and then we die.
Our goal was to initiate those conversations (and the thinking that precedes them) while one is alive and healthy.
We designed the Vessel service with 2 core loops in mind, a “front-stage” loop for the Vessel participant, and another one for those backstage, operating the service.
We send the participant 6 “issues” each with different provoking objects to reflect on (art, books, video games, etc), and each with a different theme regarding the end of life experience. The boxes contain prompts, and the participant gets a few weeks to think about the questions, and send us their responses.
The themes progress slowly, giving one the opportunity to approach the sometimes scary subject of death slowly.
We collect the responses sent to us, and we want to reflect those back to the person who wrote them. In our last issue, the Continuum issue, we introduce the Wishes Profile where the participant can see their collected responses, and edit and refine their wishes.
They can choose the medical procedures they want or do not want, and they can make it into an official advanced directive with a few simple steps. They can also share this with their family, friends and medical professionals.
Vessel helps people understand their end of life options, prepare their wishes, communicate those to their loved ones, and get everything set up before it’s too late.