Reinvent the Funeral for the Modern Era.
We need a new story for how we deal with death. Church affiliation is on the decline and concerns about affordability and sustainability are on the rise. People planning funerals are finding that the church-bound, embalmed, “traditional” end-of-life service are too expensive, impersonal and environmentally unfriendly to meet their needs.
Define an end-of-life ceremony and service that meets these user needs:
Feels personal and unique to the life that is being celebrated
Actively involves family and friends
Minimizes environmental impact
Scales to fit a high or low budget
Odyssey Memorial Adventures offers planning and support for unique, open, intimate, active funerals and memorial services.
Drawing on elements of Narrative Psychology and the Hero’s Journey, the odyssey memorial model invites survivors to celebrate their loved one through a guided journey centered around an activity of significance to the deceased.
Conversations about the thing we don't like to talk about.
The problems with death start well before a death occurs; they're in all the conversations we're too uncomfortable to have. This was confirmed to our team through interviews we conducted about death and dying with a journalist who covers death, a social worker, as well as a group of Baby Boomers, who represent the primary demographic that is actively grappling with the issues making arrangements for their parents’ and their own eventual deaths. The spark of our concept emerged during this interview, when one of our interviewees made the following suggestion:
I don’t know. There are volcanoes around here, right? After I die, maybe just carry me up there and toss me in?
Although tossed off as a casual joke, this statement seemed to spark something our interview subjects. Where previously their body language had been tense, and their statements limited, this idea was met with laughter, followed by more free discussion. Our interviewees agreed that while the volcano idea is perhaps a bit silly, a memorial activity or hike had much more appeal to them personally.
Approaching Death with a different mood.
The concept at the heart of our service involves viewing death as a part of a natural cycle, so our visual inspiration for the brand draws from this essential, balanced geometric form; although not always perfectly rendered.
Other visual themes which emerged include a natural imagery implying a path or journey, and active engagment of humans with nature and with each other. Once our visual concepts were in place, I codified them into a style guide for Odyssey Memorial Adventures.
Based on our interviews, our team created personas of potential seekers of our service.
While the framework of our memorial service could be adapted to other areas, choosing one state made sense because the disposition of human remains is largely regulated at the state level. We focused on creating a range of personas from Washington State.
We all walk differently on the path of grief.
Planning and carrying out a memorial service requires more than one person, and no two people have the same reaction or vision of how they encounter a death. To reflect this, we used an adaptation of our topography lines brand element to convey the range of emotional states our users may feel during their journey working with Odyssey Memorial Adventures.
Finding comfort in the pages of death.
Kelly and Jules took the lead in creating print and web collateral to share the vision of Odyssey Memorial Adventures with the world. These touchpoints likely represent the first direct contact our users have with Odyssey, so our team took care to craft them to communicate a message of warmth and peace.
A Tool for Planning the Unthinkable.
While my team built out our brand collateral, I focused my efforts on how to help our users in this difficult time. Our analysis of our customer journey indicated that the Planning Stage was where our user’s experience and emotional state varied most wildly. In order to assist them in this difficult stage, I developed a task flow and created a prototype for an immersive browser-based experience which would gently generate leads for Odyssey, as well as help visitors to the site find resources for their own Odyssey Memorial.