Making Of

Making Of
Making Of
Making Of
Making Of
Making Of
Making Of


How might we deploy design to confront the final stages of our lives with intentionality and prepare ourselves and our beloved for this universal experience?


We delved deep into the creation of vigil plans and utilized various media to raise awareness the end of life.


We have to face our mortality. What we want our death to look like is a personal conversation that many never have, since most of us treat it as contingency (in the future) or accident (unexpectedly). 

The western world’s systems surrounding the end of life are not focused on the needs of the dying. Instead, our society is dominated by a culture of rescue, in which “to be dying” is often misunderstood as losing a battle. This hypothesis is also proven by the lack of scientific and documentary media revolving around how people experience and design their end-of-life period. But we need not be losers to accept our mortality!


The project group delved into the complexities of healthcare systems, alternative end-of-life options, and diverse human experiences in order to reveal opportunities for design interventions. A range of readings, documentaries, and experts highlighted the ethical, social, and systemic issues which typically result in undesirable situations for those who are dying.

We generated a series of proposals including an “end-of-life doula” app, a dog walking service that makes visits to in-home hospice patients, a ceiling projection system for hospital rooms, and this interactive exhibit, which confronts mortality. Through design, we provoke this conversation and translate dialogue into products and services that facilitate better end-of-life experiences.


System Insight

In western culture, the taboo around death and dying prevails, and instead of developing strategies for how to “live the best end of life”, culture and society promote an image of heroism fighting death and longevity.


Prototype Insight

Even though considered a “hard topic” to engage with, it became clear that participants and visitors felt lightness and a feeling of encouragement after being asked to confront their ideas for their own end of life.


Human Insight

Most humans have never spent time considering the fact that in the future, they will reach a point at which their vitality and life will fade away – the so-called end-of-life phase.

End of Life

Ethnography and exhibition on the end-of-life


with Christopher Lopez, Ivana Soledad García, Ker Thao, Michelle Li, Noa Bartfeld, Noah Litvin, Sophie Riendeau, Valentina Branada Rojas, Xiomara Guerra


The New School End of Year Show


End of Life, Ethics, Commemoration, Well-Being


System Thinking, Ethnography, Immersive Prototyping


User Journey, System Blueprint, Exhibition, Video

Project Details

System Maps: Idealogy of Rescue

System mapping helped us to grasp the complexity of the U.S. Healthcare system and its existing offerings, values and beliefs.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

Exhibition Poster: Timeline

This poster is a summary of the design-group’s research process. It visualizes the timeline of a person’s end-of-life in three main stages: Progression, Acceptance, and Active dying.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

Ideation: Dying at a Hospital

In a co-creative and dynamic world-cafe ideation session, the designers quickly developed an array of ideas including a ceiling projection in hospitals for emotional support of the dying person.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

Ideation: Dying at Home

Concepts to improve and take better care of the dying experience at home include a smartphone application to book end.of-life doulas, and a messenger service to directly share notes about emotions and feelings with beloved people.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

End-of-Life Exhibit

The end-of-life exhibition consisted of a visualization of the outcomes of the ethnographic research, some co-created vigil plans and interactive postcards, as well as a raw and revealing video in which all designers of the projects outline their personal vigil plans.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

Provocation Poster

This poster is the exe-catcher of the exhibit and the starting point to trigger conversation, discourse, and interaction revolving one’s own thought and ideas for the end-of-life.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

Vigil Plan Postcard

These postcards were both used during a facilitated workshop and as self-directed prompts to fill out for the growing interactive exhibition. The card serves as a framework to consider physical and emotional aspects for the end-of-life period.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)


In a small group, this workshop invited people to create a temporary safe space with each other, which motivated them to be vulnerable, share their own beliefs and fears about dying in general, and allowed them to channel this provocative energy into generating a rough sketch of their vigil plans.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)

Vigil Plans

The designers of this project all created their own, individual vigil plans, highlighting emotional, spatial, olfactory, and social aspects that they wish to be fulfilled once they enter the acceptance stage of their end-of-life period.

© Christian Smirnow, End-of-life Team (listed above)



Christian Smirnow

Torstr. 24

10119 Berlin, Germany

Impressum DE

Imprint EN

© 2020 Christian Smirnow

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