Make it Personal
by Laila Haus
May 24, 2017
A shared experience can lead to a design opportunity
As creative people, we often go about our daily lives with a communicator lens on. Every once in a while,
a situation presents itself where there is a lack of appropriate design solutions available—and we get to be the ones to address an important problem.
A number of years ago, I was thrust into a community that I knew nothing about when my husband and I lost our fourth daughter, Alina, to stillbirth. Her identical twin Hanna survived. In the following days, I discovered that this new group I belonged to—grieving parents—was more widespread than I’d realized, and yet largely unacknowledged. As I struggled to design our complicated birth announcements, I really had to dig deep to convey the dichotomy of our emotions and figure out how to get it out on paper. We felt guilty for being happy and we felt guilty for being sad. Joy together with sorrow. How’s that for a creative brief?
We received a smattering of generic “Thinking of You” cards alongside happy pink baby congratulatory greetings, but there really was nothing in the greeting card industry that existed for our unique situation. In fact, there are precious few infant loss cards available at all. I was struck by the lack of appropriate designs that were ultimately taking away from, or getting in the way of, genuine love or support. There were outdated, photocopied pamphlets, self-published (and assumingly self-designed) support books, no small urns, and little to no appropriate bereavement gift items.
When it comes to the appropriateness of social grief pertaining to infant death, society’s stance is practically non-existent. Nobody talks about it. And who can blame them? Such an unfathomable topic is not typically the peak of dinnertime conversation. Despite high statistics, pregnancy and infant loss remains a private and hidden reality, leaving people unsure of how to react. But I discovered in the interest of support and sympathy, the exact opposite was actually required. Let’s talk about it.
Through this, I saw an opportunity. Each perinatal loss experience is unique, but so much comfort and healing can be provided with an appropriate message. How could I help other families who had faced similar situations? My solution was to provide a token of correspondence for families experiencing any type of infant loss. Out of this, Lullabye Condolences was born.
Here, on the prairies, we have long winters and lots of snow. I painted the artwork for my line of sympathy cards with considerable intention—by using real, freshly fallen snow and watercolour pigments. Snow literally falls straight from the heavens, and not all communities are privy to its beauty. Each loss journey is as unique as an individual snowflake. The artwork, along with a simple typographic acknowledgment of the individual loss situation, like the “o” in “baby boy” replaced with a floating halo, come together to add great meaning and thoughtfulness to this greeting. So much can be communicated with a missing letter. Today, cards have been shipped throughout Canada, and all over the US, the UK and Australia.
As communicators, we are so fortunate to be able to create something that can intersect with someone’s journey in a positive way, to craft these human experiences and to provide a tangible solution that ignites powerful results, such as renewed perspective, true empathy and maybe even a glimmer of hope. Then we can leave people with nothing more than the feeling that they were seen, and their experience was acknowledged.
Creative work continues to bring solutions to communities in need. Look around your life, and as you miser over various touch points and pass off the ones that don’t really measure up, stop for a minute and remember that you have the power to change something, to create something. Chances are that someone else may not even realize they are in need of the exact same thing.
In this day and age of digital communications and smartphone addictions, it’s important to remember that we are still human after all. And our tangible need for comfort and emotional acknowledgement is very real. Care, love and purpose come in many forms, and you can often find them, tucked behind the creative brief—whatever that may be.
A version of this article was originally written for the 3% Conference in 2015. This version appeared in the May 2017 issue of Applied Arts.
Laila Haus is a creative director at The Phoenix Group, a Regina-based marketing and advertising agency.
May 25, 2017
Insightful and brilliant. Thank you for providing a beautiful way to express and acknowledge this most difficult of griefs.
May 31, 2017
Yes! Finally someone writes about fuck it.