Designing for Grief

The messy, unpredictable experience of grief has moved online, but how do we design for such an individual and complex set of emotions?

Grief is universal. But whether experienced on a collective scale as with the Covid-19 pandemic, or as a painful individual loss, the way we process and understand it is not.

The internet is often spoken of as ephemeral but it’s a constant in our lives, making it an obvious place to renegotiate loss. Social media has now become the public outpost for mass-mourning, turning a once private ritual of grief into a potential free-for-all. This shift has drawn criticism but its gift has been in allowing us multiple ways of mourning across different social constellations.

In their book Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, Kathleen Gilbert and Gloria Horsley write about the rise of online communities that “legitimise the griever, the loss, or both”. In the absence of traditional gatekeeping and with the ease of finding fellow grievers to connect with, a crop of digital projects have prompted a reexamination of the creative potential in designing for and sharing loss.

Although mourning projects existed before Covid-19, the lonely isolation of the past two years has revealed the potential of digital remembrance spaces. For the creators of the Covid Memorial, Duo Ventures, the pandemic was global but there was nothing to reflect that. “While there were one or two online memorials, they were either country-specific, linked to a religious organisation or being politicised,” they say.