What will I learn?


Using immersive research and design to reimagine death and legacy.

Many people in the U.S. avoid conversations or contemplations around death. But there has been a recent interest in bringing the topic of the end-of-life back to the surface -- whether through “Death over Dinner,” Death Cafes, Atul Gawande’s medical perspective on “Being Mortal,” or start-ups that aim to reinvent how we approach the end of life.

This class uses the topics of death and legacy as a way to practice immersive research skills and navigate ambiguity. We will explore these themes through several distinct perspectives: palliative care, digital legacy, and human-centered design. We will start by using immersive research to gain insight into medical approaches to end-of-life care and the needs and dilemmas it presents. Then we will explore how death and legacy are shifting in the digital age, and the ways technology companies are trying to help us navigate between digital life and digital afterlife. In the third and final session, we will draw on the principles of human-centered design to reimagine an aspect of the end of life or afterlife experience, based on what we’ve learned. Students will leave with insights from the immersive design research of the first two sessions, and a prototype of an idea developed in our final hands-on design session.

Over the course of the three sessions, students will:

  • Understand how medicine and technology are shifting approaches to end of life and legacy

  • Gain hands-on experience in immersive design research methods

  • Learn how to reframe research insights into a design challenge

  • Practice rapidly brainstorming and then prototyping an idea

Learn With

Teaching Team

Laura Pickel
Curriculum Designer, SAP

Rebecca Blum
Research and Strategy, Lyft

John Armstrong

Lecturer and Fellow, Stanford University

Alex Sable-Smith
Hospice and Palliative Care Physician, VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Any questions?