Ellen Rose

Ellen Rose 2019

Big Exit

Experience & App Design


January, February, March 2018

What I Did

Concept development, experience design, graphic design, UX


Deconstruction : Reconstruction course at SVA Products of Design MFA program

Guidance from

The Challenge

The Outcome

Create an app and an accompanying artifact that speaks to or solves for a pain point in your own life.

An app and an experience that bring people together to think about a topic that makes us otherwise feel isolated, giving us a chance to create solace and peace within ourselves.


The Big Exit app informs users about local events, but it is also serves as a tool for dealing with death anxiety on a daily basis.


The app’s main function is to send three

unpredictably-timed notifications each day with cultural, historical and biological lessons on death and its rituals.

The intended effect is to transform this complex and distressing subject into something that is quotidian and

less unknowable.


Designers, rightfully so, design for users. We identify others' pain points and turn them into opportunities.  Big Exit, however, comes from a different place. It comes from a pain point in my own life: my fear of death. 


I wanted to explore if I was even capable of designing around something that brings me deep anxiety. And would the design outcome be something that other people would relate to and find useful?


Sometimes the awareness of our death is a great motivator: we wouldn’t have bucket lists if we were immortal, but more often, that awareness is an obstacle. I have rare but intense moments when I feel paralyzed by thoughts of what happens after death. Through research and first-person interviews, I learned that this is not a unique experience. We all have profound feelings (some negative, some not) regarding our own death.

Big Exit is based on the thesis that by bringing people together to think about a topic that makes us otherwise feel isolated, we have a chance to create solace and peace within ourselves.

Using the Big Exit app, participants search for local Big Exit events, like the Death Tableau. For this event, participants gather to practice meditation and engage in a respectful conversation about their views, fears and expectations for death. I conducted a Death Tableau event in May 2018, and at the conclusion, participants said they felt more grounded, gracious and connected—to themselves and one another.

Creating branded "Rest in Peace" pillows for each of the Death Tableau event participants.


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