Transforming funerals through design innovation

Graduation Day Fri 1 Dec 17 in the splendid Hogwarts setting of Glasgow University

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve had an interest in transforming funerals through design innovation for the past decade. So I took a leap of faith in the past year and studied full-time for a Masters in Design Innovation (Service Design), with a focus on funerals, at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art.

What an inspiring, challenging journey that has been. I found myself engrossed 9-5 Monday-Friday in a busy art school studio, working in a cohort of 50 amazing, international Millennials. For me, the mission was transforming funerals through design innovation. For others it was transforming food packaging, learning in China, dog care, long distance relationships, world risk, online dating and more.

In October, post-Masters, in recognition of my Best in Class result, I was nominated to represent Glasgow School of Art at the World Creativity Forum in Aarhus, Denmark (European Capital of Culture). On that trip, Dorian, a young Dutch student commented: “I hope you don’t mind me saying but it’s inspiring to see someone of your age with so much energy. My parents say ‘it’s your turn now’ like their lives are over.” (Turns out his parents are 7 years younger than me.)

I don’t think so! Life’s not over till it’s over, so I encourage others to keep dreaming, learning, stretching. It’s so rewarding.

Here’s what I gained out of stepping out of my comfort zone to sit in a studio with 50 bright young things and work my butt off for a year:

  • I achieved a Distinction for my Masters
  • I won the Chairman’s Medal for Best in Innovation School
  • I won the inaugural Innovation by Design prize for use of design as a means of exploring how we deal with end of life care and funerary practices.
  • I have been offered doctoral studies to pursue research into improving funerals and end of life experiences.

And maybe most of all, I had great fun and made friends for life. It’s exciting to think of all those bright minds heading off across the globe to tackle all the world’s poor services, transform citizenship and caretake the environment.

Transforming funerals through design innovation

My final project focussed on design innovation for funerals, dramatically titled: 21st Century Funerals: Theatre of the Sacred and the Profane.

My design solutions proposed a way to end funeral poverty and transform engagement with end-of-life planning through four service design approaches – two each for the public and private sector.

I’ve since presented findings to Scottish Government – officers from palliative care, social security and benefits.

I’m happy to talk to anyone interested in finding out more.

I’m looking for partners and interested parties for my doctoral studies, starting in September, so shout if you think you could learn more about how we engage with end of life planning and how funerals could play a part in this.

Email me or phone 07789 564 775.

2 thoughts on “Transforming funerals through design innovation

  1. Congratulations Barbara. Moving forward, Pushing Up The Daisies would definitely be interested in working with you to find the place in our lives for people to keep someone close for the few days after death. Why is it standard practice in the Netherlands and has become “not normal” here ?

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