Industry News

Global call for ideas to re-imagine deathcare for the future in “Design for Death” competition

SINGAPORE– Designers worldwide now have a chance to change the way life’s final exit is made.

The Lien Foundation and ACM Foundation today announced their collaboration with NFDA, the globe’s leading funeral service association, to launch Design for Death, the world’s inaugural international competition to re-design deathcare for the future. Administered by Designboom, the first and largest independent online publication dedicated to architecture and design with over 4 million readers, Design for Death invites designers, artists, architects and anyone with a creative mind and spirit to present their ideas and innovations to inspire and transform death-care practices.

The competition’s jury members bring their field of expertise to the competition and amongst them are Pritzker Prize architect, Richard Meier and popular digital artist Ray Caesar. The competition will award a total of EUR$80,000 in prizes and seeks submissions for (1) how various aspects of deathcare can be environmentally friendly and (2) interpretations of how design can better encapsulate the deceased and remember them. Winners will go to Austin, Texas and have their work showcased at the annual 2013 NFDA International Convention & Expo from Oct. 20-23. The pinnacle event for the deathcare industry draws thousands of participants from all over the world each year. Full competition details are at

Redefining deathcare

Design for Death was conceived to catalyze the international creative and design community to re-think and re-imagine the trappings of a funeral or memorial service, how internments can be conducted or the deceased remembered. “We believe designers have the power to influence culture, consumption and the construction of meaningful experiences at life’s final frontier,” said Lien Foundation’s CEO Mr. Lee Poh Wah. He recalled how his organization’s “Happy Coffins” design competition in 2010 received 733 entries from 33 countries. The idea of personalized coffins was positively received and even attracted offers of commercialization from U.S.A.

“Through Design for Death, we hope to shift paradigms and spur new practical initiatives in deathcare - from green funerals and sustainable practices to upbeat send-offs and digital legacies,” remarked Mr. Lee, who spearheads Lien Foundation’s mission to improve care for the dying. “Good design stimulates, engages and creates an ideal backdrop for contemplation and conversations. We are leveraging design for social transformation of death attitudes.”

Changing the business of death

Many new possibilities are springing up from six feet under - from reef memorials in the sea to diamonds made from ashes. “It is not far-fetched to say that the business of death can contribute to life,” said Mr. Ang Ziqian, Founder of ACM Foundation, the newly set-up philanthropic organization of Ang Chin Moh Casket. “Innovations in deathcare can impact the future of our environment and influence daily lives. For example, thermal energy from crematoriums is now being channelled to power daily energy needs in the U.K. The age-old deathcare industry is re-inventing itself and sporting a new face for the future.”

Global body for deathcare lends its weight

Throwing their strong support behind this initiative is NFDA, the world's leading funeral service association serving 19,700 funeral directors in the U.S and globally. NFDA’s CEO Ms. Christine Pepper said, “The needs of funeral consumers are evolving faster than ever before. Families are making decisions based on different values and expectations than previous generations. Families want funerals and memorial services to be meaningful and personal experiences that help them say goodbye to loved ones. Funeral directors are eager to discover innovations and ideas that will help them better meet the needs of the families they serve.”

Undertaking ‘Die-logues’

Believing that design can erode the taboo of death, Lien Foundation and ACM Foundation have each committed equally to provide a total of S$1.2m for Design for Death and two other initiatives. “We want to draw funeral directors into ‘die-logues’ as they can give practical advice and compassionate counselling to families during times of grief,” said Lien Foundation’s Mr. Lee “With thoughtful guidance from these professionals, there can be a chance for a joyous requiem at the end of life.” Mr. Ang affirmed, “The passing on of a loved one offers opportunities for care, comfort and even celebration. A fitting finale can be transformed into expressions of appreciation and love, giving healing memories and lasting legacies.”


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