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Design Meets Death; Reimagining End-of-life Narratives and Experiences through Meaning Centred Design and Human Centred Innovation

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

End-of-life is a profound and inevitable part of life, and thus, human condition. It raises significant and critical questions around the meaning, purpose, fairness and quality of life - on multiple individual, inter-personal, and societal levels. As societies, we have tended to historically ‘religionise’ and ‘medicalise’ death. Such ‘singular expertise’ however, is neither applicable, nor acceptable in a human centred era. How can we reclaim control and power over our end-of-life narratives and experiences? How can we ‘humanise’ death? And how could Design facilitate and contribute to both such critical conversations and experiences?

Design for end-of-life is an emerging and fascinating area, gaining visibility and interdisciplinary interest. Current contributions around design and end-of-life are however, limited and lacking in critical knowledge base and strategic vision. While valuable, such rush into interventional, operational and incremental contributions, is archetypal of design’s ‘problem-solving’ approach. Such problem-solving approach would risk obscuring the broader and potentially significant ‘theoretical’, ‘methodological’, and ‘empirical’ contributions between design and end-of-life.

This PhD builds the case for adopting a ‘problem framing’, ‘transdisciplinary’, and ‘systemic’ approach to this emerging field. By initiating, for the first time, a theoretically and empirically informed critical discourse between the two fields of Design and End-of-life, critical questions, strategic opportunities, and significant contributions between the two fields could be identified, outlined, and accordingly explored.

This is an excellent opportunity to conduct an original, significant and timely exploratory design research with a strong interdisciplinary focus.

Only strong, ambitious and intrinsically motivated applicants are encouraged to apply. Fields such as Social gerontology, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, History, and Law will be explored alongside core design disciplines and approaches such as Human centred design, Meaning centred design, Critical design, Speculative design, and Empathic design.

We are seeking candidates with a minimum of 2:1 (or equivalent) first degree in Design or a highly related subject. Previous experience or knowledge in social sciences, healthcare, palliative care, and similar areas is desirable. Strong communication, interdisciplinary approach and team working skills is required. Good publication record and critical research evidence is desirable.

Candidates are strongly encouraged to read the paper “Design Meets Death. A case of critical discourse and strategic contributions” (Nickpour, 2019) - see references - and contact Dr Nickpour prior to application, in order to highlight their interest in the topic:

Please apply through the University of Liverpool’s online system with all documents required by the application system, please also include a covering letter for your application.

Funding Notes

University tuition fees will be covered. Additionally, there is opportunity to apply for external grants and/or take up teaching assistant (TA) position to contribute towards living costs. Worldwide candidates will be considered.


Aslakson RA, et a. Patient- and Caregiver-Reported Assessment Tools for Palliative Care: Summary of the 2017 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Technical Brief. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017 Dec;54(6):961-972

Behrman, RE, Field, MJ. (2003) When children die: Improving palliative and end-of-life care for children and their families

Davies EA. Why we need more poetry in palliative care. BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2018 Sep;8(3):266-270.

End Well Symposium; Design for the End of Life Experience.
(Accessed 25/03/19)

HELIX; Living well until we die (Accessed 25/03/19)

Hexem, K, Mollen, J, Carroll, K. (2011) How parents of children receiving pediatric palliative care use religion, spirituality, or life philosophy in tough times. Journal of Palliative Care

IMM van der Geest, ASE Darlington, IC Streng (2014)Parents' experiences of pediatric palliative care and the impact on long-term parental grief. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 47, Issue 6, June 2014, Pages 1043-1053

Jensenius, A.R. (2012) (accessed 25/03/19)

Kane PM, et al. The gap between policy and practice: a systematic review of patient-centred care interventions in chronic heart failure. Heart Fail Rev. 2015 Nov;20(6):673-87

Lloyd-Williams M, Reeve J, Kissane D. Distress in palliative care patients: developing patient-centred approaches to clinical management. Eur J Cancer. 2008 May;44(8):1133-8

Nickpour, F. (2019) Design Meets Death. A case of critical discourse and strategic contributions, 13th European Academy of Design Conference (EAD2019), Dundee, UK.

Open IDEO. How might we reimagine the end-of-life experience for ourselves and our loved ones? (Accessed 25/03/19)

Reimagine End of Life. (Accessed 25/03/19)

Volkart, H, Nessler, D. (2017) (Accessed 25/03/19)

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