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*Refined* Facilitating a collective creation of a symbol that challenges death as a taboo and represents an empowered community.

A collective exercise that gives a framework for discussing death positively at various levels, all anchored by a universal symbol.

Photo of Pranav Nayak
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Our idea is designed for a society that finds the very discussion around death uncomfortable. The symbol affects change at various levels - Patients & Relatives A starting point for a for belonging and supportive community. - Doctors & their support staff A repository to initiate a difficult conversation and follow through with empathy. - Youth A tool for educating them about a heavy subject like death. - Local institutions Framework to create a safe-space for people associated with EOL

Table of Content

  • In a Nutshell
  • Idea Overview
  • Where’s The Need?
  • The User Maps
  • Solving Assumptions
  • Partnerships
  • Acting on Feedback

In a Nutshell

We are proposing a collective exercise and conversation around the end of life, which culminates into the creation of a universally accepted symbol of death, which will acknowledge multicultural and diverse aspects regarding the end of life experience

This symbol then becomes a rally point for a slew of discussions and changes at various levels. The symbol will be a spark for political debates, a safe space for patients, a tool for simplifying for doctors, imagery to associate with for local establishments and taboo breaker for others.

Idea Overview

It takes three phases to complete our idea.

The first phase is iterating and prototyping the workshop structure and deliverables.

Second is, executing the collective workshop.

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The third phase is execution of the framework our workshop provides, at different levels. 

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Where’s The Need?
Currently, death is something society finds hard to admit. Death is handled privately, in isolation. And the first step in understanding and supporting a cause is acknowledging it; think the recycling symbol, pink ribbon etc.

If someone around us is nearing the final stage, there is no way for society to communicate or get support. Symbols for breast cancer awareness, AIDS, Autism etc make the discussion around these problems possible. An icon for death gives society the chance to show support and empathy towards people close to passing; as opposed to being pitiful and avoiding the uncomfortable discussion.

The ingrained negative connotation of death in society today

Existing Symbols Prompting Support & Awareness

The User Maps

Typically, an execution has one user map since it’s targeted to one user. But the success of our idea relies on affecting multiple lives at various levels. To illustrate the ideal scenario, we’ve mapped each user with a story.

A Patient’s User Map

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A Doctor’s User Map

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A Relative’s User Map

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An Influencer’s User Map

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Solving Assumptions

 The symbol forms specific solutions which solve problem assumptions. Same has been illustrated in the media gallery.

Scope For Partnerships

There will be two tiers of partnerships. One for creating the discussion and symbol & the other, for the deployment of the solutions.

Partnerships for the workshop:

-       Medical Institutions

  • World Medical Association
  • World Health Professions Alliance
  • Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance
  • National Library of Medicine (NLM)

-       Cultural Institutes

  • European Union National Institutes for Culture
  • Goethe-Institutes

-               Professional Associations

  • Association of Information Technology Professionals
  • Institute of Food Technologists
  • International Association of Facilitators
  • Project Management Institute

-               Religious Institutes

  • Missionaries of Charity
  • Association for Jewish Studies
  • Art of Living Association
  • Buddhist Association of China

Partnerships for deploying solutions:

  • Pearson PLC
  • Presbyterian Hospital
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance
  • Families USA
  • American Academy of Nursing
  • International Baccalaureate
  • International Education Foundation

Acting on Feedback

At this stage, we interviewed close friends and relatives about the soundness of our idea, along with the feedback from the IDEO community.  

-       Workshop isn’t just for creating the symbol

The feedback suggested the workshop phase be for discussing broader topics about the end of life. Since we are taking the effort of bringing people together, let’s bring ideas together and document the process.

-       Suggest the applications of the symbol

A valuable feedback was suggesting the ways in which the symbol can take form. We identified core pillars which formed the 3rd and crucial phase of our idea.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The prototype and iteration phase is the most important stage in our idea, it’s only with the help of organisations like IDEO and Shutter Health, that a broader scope is possible for our team for testing the complete pilots for developing. It is also behind the name of important collaborations that projects like this one are possible. We would love to reach out to existing palliative care institutions, patients and their support structure, to take their views on how this could help them more.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Formulating the symbol is a process. This can't be completed by a liner design process. It has to be collaborative in nature. - Using Ideo’s expertise in bringing together a motivated community - Ideo’s facilitation prowess to engage that community in remote workshops - Harnessing the community’s inputs and picking a symbol that’s culturally accepted. Since the symbol is the face of the movement, what conversation points and activities can maintain the relevancy around the movement?

Tell us about your work experience:

Erika grew up in Colombia. Passionate about social issues, she attended Hyper Island and took the leap towards UX and a more human approach to problems. Pranav was born in Mumbai where he dabbled as a copywriter, before finding his calling at Hyper Island as a strategic storyteller.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration


Join the conversation:

Photo of Summer

I love the idea of a symbol to stimulate individual existential exploration and collective engagement surrounding death. That said, I worry that death taps into such differing and deeply held belief structures that agreement upon a universally embraced symbol to represent "death" itself may be hard to achieve. It seems it would require an accompanying narrative that bridges ideological divides.

One consideration would be to slightly reframe the effort to generating a universal symbol that represents human connection and compassion around our shared ending.

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