Closure, Digital Legacy and Death: What we learnt from the second BIO bold


In design, as in life, endings are difficult. Hard to think about, hard to face up, hard to design products and services for. And endings are changing. Consumers have new expectations of the product lifecycle. People want to change their services more regularly, and to get more from them. Increasing longevity, demographic shifts and advancing technology are opening up new pressures, and new possibilities, for designers.

At BIO, our work is mostly focused on thinking about the future. But this time, we wanted to challenge assumptions about how things conclude. Our second BIO bold was all about endings – examining off-boarding, closure experiences, our digital legacy and even death (and its shifting implications in the digital era).

We welcomed a panel of product designers, digital legacy experts and BIO's resident futurists Marcus and Stu who talked about:

Joe Macleod, author of Ends. and founder of And End.

Consumer experience consists of 3 stages: onboarding, usage, and offboarding. While brands heavily invest in and focus on the first two, the latter is often overlooked. But as Joe showed us – we love endings. In stories, in films, in life. Closure means everything and it has a strong psychological impact on our perception of the overall product or service experience. Brands need to rethink how they approach endings and develop closure experiences that are emotional, actionable and timely.

Read more about the subject in Joe’s recent guest blog post: ‘Consumer endings – unwanted, overlooked, yet critical to sustainable consumption’.

James Norris, founder of the Digital Legacy Association and Dead Social

300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. Photographs are no longer a physical asset sitting quietly in a photo album. They’ve become a public piece of information, one we share with the world pretty much in real-time. But what we don’t think about is that all of these small snippets of digital information feed into our digital legacy and contribute to what remains of us when we die.

DLA and Dead Social raise awareness of the importance of digital legacy and advice on how we can use technology to better the end of life experiences. They also work with NHS – thinking about the future of health and looking at how we can use digital and social media as a catalyst for these wider conversations.

Stuart and Marcus took a speculative, more-questions-than-answers look at the future of humanity. Think of it as scenario planning for the next stage in human evolution. We asked the audience to consider some difficult topics and moral dilemmas.

Stuart Whyte, Head of Strategy at the BIO agency

No one is born with the idea of death. It’s a learnt behaviour. We, as a human race, have this obsession with immortality. Heaven, rebirth, the idea of something else going on after death. And – while we’re still alive – we’re very much focused on the concept of upgrading to live a better, longer life. Stuart explored what immortality means in today’s world and the development of ideas to affect our biological clock, whether by eating healthily, taking supplements, all the way to the extreme moral dilemmas of artificially designing your offspring.

Marcus Dunford, Art Director / Innovation Lead at the BIO agency

In a simulated world – at this point, usually games – the learning process is very different. With the consequences of your actions so limited, the learning curve is minimised. Marcus explained how this keys in to the desire for immediacy in a now-now-now culture. And this, in turn, feeds into the way we deal with endings. Some people believe we will be able to upload our consciousness into the digital realms by 2020. The ultimate simulated world (or worlds!). But if you had an opportunity to upload your mind, would you take it? It wouldn’t make the original you immortal, but simply create a digital copy. A copy that might evolve into a different person, with a new personality shaped by hard-to-imagine experiences.

Each of our speakers approached the subject of endings from a slightly different angle. But they had one message in common – endings are a tricky subject. We all tend to focus on beginnings, but offboarding can be just as important.

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