The power of design and illustration to make us more comfortable discussing death

Death isn't something most of us (in the Western World at least) feel comfortable about discussing – it remains a difficult, emotionally loaded topic.

To make discussions around dying more open, illustrator and creative director Anna Charity has used her charmingly simple, playful aesthetic in a new TV spot for online will-writing service, Farewill.

The advert, produced by character design and animation studio Animade, the 30-second animation uses simple line drawing and a minimal colour palette of yellow and off-white to reflect the nature of the brand's promise to make will-writing more straightforward.

The aesthetic also reinforces the idea of death and making plans on how those close to us deal with something that needn't seem as frightening as complex, with playful and approachable characters and motifs.

Charity's loose, hand-drawn illustration and animation style delineate Farewill mascot, Blob, who is the main character in the short. He's seen in his home with his child and an adorable, cheeky wee cat; while leaves and a fish become symbols of death in the first few seconds to indicate the passing of things close to us when they fall off a tree and float to the top of a fishbowl respectively.

For all the simplicity of the drawing, Blob's face is highly expressive, aiming to add "warmth to a topic that's often fraught with fear and tension," and "make the world of will writing seem a bit less scary," as Animade puts it. The narration tells viewers that Farewill's service looks to cut through the things that often put people off writing wills, like "mountains of paperwork," expensive fees and complicated legal jargon by helping them make theirs in around 15 minutes.

The style of the animation draws from the Farewill rebrand that launched last month, created by Charity, who's Head of Design at meditation app Headspace. It describes her work as part of an aim to "create experiences that make a positive impact on the world through design, illustration, character and storytelling" by designing with feeling, empathy and humour that uses "the power of character as a way to inspire and delight."

She says that for the Farewill imagery and branding, she "wanted to create a visual language that made the brand feel friendly and approachable...I wanted the illustrations to be versatile enough to convey complex stories, but I also wanted them to demonstrate the simplicity of the service Farewill offers. Once the style was set, I started exploring characters." The Blob mascot evolved from the idea that the central character needed to be something "people could really relate to – someone who championed them and made them feel like writing a will was much easier than they thought. For us, this became Blob: our soft, protective, big friendly giant."

Dan Garrett, CEO and co-founder of Farewill, says that the new look aims to "use design and technology to modernise the way people write a will" and "warm people up to the idea of writing a will in the first place." He adds that it needed to "build a brand that completely changes people's perceptions of death."


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