Rebranding death: How Farewill is using design to change the way the world deals with death
Anna Charity – illustrator, creative director and visual mastermind behind the revolutionary mindfulness app, Headspace – was brought in to lead the rebrand.
Losing a loved one is one of the toughest things any of us will ever have to go through. And the big, scary industry behind it doesn't do much to help. Tombstones, mountains of paperwork and rainy funeral processions – these are the images that spring to mind when we think about death. So is it any wonder we all find it so hard to deal with?
In an age where technology has integrated with almost every aspect of our lives, the death industry remains largely untouched. We shop for houses online. We buy car insurance online. We even manage our money and investments online. But the world of wills, probate and funerals remains a high-street experience that's slow, expensive and inconvenient. In fact, less than 5% of these services are found or compared on the internet.
At Farewill, we’re on a mission to change that. Since launching our online will writing service in 2015, we’ve gone on to become the UK's biggest and best-rated will writer, raising over £150 million in pledged donations for charity along the way. And the key to this unprecedented success? Design.
"There are over 30 million adults in the UK that don't have a will, which is leaving more families unprotected than ever before."
Death is a cold, faceless industry with fascinating design challenges everywhere you look. "There are over 30 million adults in the UK that don't have a will, which is leaving more families unprotected than ever before,” explains Dan Garrett, CEO and co-founder of Farewill. “This is the number one problem we're trying to solve at Farewill. How can we use design and technology to modernise the way people write a will? How can we simplify the will writing process to make it a positive user experience? And, the biggest challenge of all, how can we warm people up to the idea of writing a will in the first place? That's been a huge area of focus for us over the last 12 months. We can't just rely on beautifully designed products; we need to build a brand that completely changes people's perceptions of death."
To kick off the rebrand project, we needed someone with a passion for making a positive impact on the world. For that, we called on the artistic talents of Anna Charity – illustrator, creative director and visual mastermind behind Headspace. After spending eight years creating and nurturing the revolutionary mindfulness brand out in LA, Anna came back to London looking for her next big challenge.
"When Dan explained Farewill’s mission of changing the way the world deals with death, I was immediately interested,” she says. “Writing a will is something everyone assumes is going to be complicated. For many people, just hearing the words puts their guard up. So, from very early on, I knew I wanted to create a visual language that made the brand feel friendly and approachable.
"When you look at the solicitors and law firms Farewill is competing against, there's stock photography everywhere you turn, and the branding is all a bit fifty shades of blue. Those were two things we knew we had to avoid, so illustration became the clear way forward.
"In terms of style, 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. Everything Farewill does begins and ends with the customer, so I wanted to create a mascot 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.
“After drawing Blob, I realised quite quickly that we needed a supporting cast. That’s where the cat and the tortoise came in. Death is such a difficult subject for a lot of people to think about, but broaching the subject through animals somehow makes it feel softer and more friendly.”
Since our brand refresh last year, things at Farewill have gone from strength to strength, with the team almost doubling in the space of six months. Now, we’re taking on the rising cost of funerals with our new direct cremation service.
“The average cost of a funeral in the UK is £4,400,” says Dan, “and 1 in 8 families go into debt to pay for a funeral.” As the biggest will writer in the UK, we know better than anyone that this isn’t what people really want. “When our wills customers fill out their funeral wishes, they don't ask for expensive cars, coffins or flowers; all most people want is a simple, informal memorial that doesn’t cost their family too much.
“The big problem here is that the funeral industry hasn’t changed in over 150 years. And it’s long overdue for a redesign. So rather than trying to sell people things they don't really need, we focus on taking care of the cremation in the best way possible. Within a timeframe of around 2-3 weeks, we collect the deceased from their place of death, carry out an unattended cremation and hand-deliver the ashes back to the family. For this, we charge a fixed-price of £895. Families can then spend as much or as little as they want on creating the perfect memorial for their loved one.”
Since launching our direct cremation service, we grew to become one of the UK's biggest cremation providers in just 60 days. And by continuing to enter, disrupt and redesign archaic industries, we hope Farewill really can change the way the world deals with death.