Life Support: Interactive Design to Help us Talk About Death


Please note: This post contains themes and content that focus on death and dying. Whilst the tone is positive, hopeful and educational, I completely understand if it’s not right for you at present, but encourage you to return to it when you’re ready.

I had always suspected that our rather Victorian way of skirting around death and basically completely avoiding it at all turns was probably…not very good for us. But in spite of that I hadn’t really challenged my thinking in this area. Shying away from the difficulty and tears that I knew would ensue from my opening up. However since last year, with the outbreak of the pandemic and my participation in a rather unique client project; ‘Life Support’, I’ve found myself ready to make some changes.

Back in the Summer I had the opportunity to work on a very interesting project. I had been introduced by a friend to The Liminal Space, a wonderful group of creatives who specialise in making meaningful and innovative experiences. They had been awarded funding by Innovate UK to create an engaging, interactive piece that would help people to start having difficult conversations about death and dying, with their loved ones.



Covid-19 has completely transformed all of our lives and people are thinking about death more than ever, but they do not feel comfortable to discuss it with their friends or family. This is having a huge impact on our society, mental health and well being. The Liminal Space were close to this issue and through a previous project had carried out extensive research on end of life, death and dying. They had gathered advice from charities such as Marie Curie and Compassion in Dying, as well as insights from leading experts in palliative care, doctors, nurses and physicians. They also had a collection of real life stories from people’s personal experiences with death.

They wanted to find a way to turn this amazing web of content into a supportive, engaging journey that would empower people with stories, knowledge and practical steps for starting conversations.

I joined the team as their UX and UI designer and over a series of Zoom workshops, we explored how we could do this. We wanted the site to feel flowing. For visitors to be able to choose their own path through the content. To alight on some topics and perhaps delve deeply into others. The tone was very important to us, it needed to be supportive but not patronising, open, clear and to appeal to all genders.

From initial sketches to wireframe blueprints, I helped the team to craft the experience. I worked closely with our creative developer Jonny Thaw and our digital producer Michelle Feuerlicht to prototype interactions and animations that felt right. We created ‘puzzle piece’ content blocks of audio, facts and stories that could be dynamically fitted together to create unique journeys.

As we developed the design style; a striking palette of bold shapes, colours and strong typography – a gentle way of animating that reflected breathing in and out, started to come to the fore. This leant a feeling of calm to the site as you move through it. Encouraging the visitor to explore at a slow pace, taking as much time as they need.



We curated the content to support people through a range of different topics such as; how to have a good death, talking about death with someone who has COVID-19, having control at the end of your life, as well as how you can talk to children about some of these themes. We also created ‘poster’ like, downloadable tips and tools to give people ideas for ways into these topics. The dual navigation was designed to allow people to easily find a specific topic quickly or to follow a more personal, meandering route through the site. The expert audio recordings can be bookmarked making it easy for visitors to collect and revisit the pieces that connected with them.

I learned from Life Support that whilst the unbearable sadness that the death of a loved one causes cannot (and should not) be avoided, talking about death before it happens and making our wishes known, can be a huge help.

Lots of the real life stories included in Life Support discuss how forward discussion and planning made a huge positive difference to the people left behind when a family member or friend passed away. Knowing what their loved one wanted (or didn’t want) in advance often proved to remove huge amounts of unnecessary stress and additional upset.

Having recently lost a family member to Covid-19, I have now experienced this first hand. I wish that I had been more prepared for it. Though it’s early days for me, I can now see how valuable it will be for me and my family to start having these conversations with each other. To consider what we would want at our funerals, what sort of treatment we might accept from Doctors and where we would prefer to die. So that when the time comes, as it will for us all, we can take some comfort from knowing that it’s happening in line with our values and wishes.

The project has been well received so far, gaining lots of positive feedback across social media and via the press. It means a lot to me to be able to work on meaningful experiences such as Life Support and I hope it will help lots of people.

I would love to be involved with more forward thinking projects such as this one in the future. If you’re in need of unique UX and carefully crafted interactive design for your project, please do get in touch!

The Owl Experience

Last year, just before the first lockdown began, I enjoyed a very special day out. My lovely friends had given me the gift of an ‘Owl Experience’ for my 30th birthday. The chance to meet, draw and learn about the beautiful owls of Knockhatch Sanctuary. So on a very chilly January morning, Adam and I set out on our Owl Adventure.

The two friendly and knowledgable owl Keepers met us at the park entrance and took us to their office; a cosy cabin stocked up with owl supplies. Frozen mice dinners, leather gauntlets, weighing scales, tools, feeding schedules and muddy boots. From then on in, we accompanied them in their daily owl care routine, picking up plenty of owl facts as the day went on.



First we were introduced to Pingu, a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. We were very lucky to be allowed to hold him. He had very large talons and intricate peppery, grey feathers (we would get to draw him later!).

Next we met Blizzard the Snowy Owl and joined in with his exercise session. He was building up his flying confidence so was a little shaky in the air, but easily encouraged when a few morsels were offered up. He was spectacularly beautiful. His thick layer of feathers were the purest white. We learned from the keepers that snowy owls build their nests on the ground in the barren Arctic to which they are native.

After Blizzard’s flying session, we went back to the cabin to warm up and to say hello to Mufasa the White Faced Scops Owl. The Keepers encouraged us to gently stroke the feathers on his chest. He nibbled my fingers while I did so and kept me company while they checked the Winter weights of some of the birds to ensure they were healthy for the time of year.

Warmed up, we went back outside to exercise Steel the Siberian Eagle Owl. She was absolutely enormous, it was awesome to see her in flight, if not a little scary when she was flying towards you. I would not want to get on the wrong side of an Eagle Owl! We also met one of the Keeper’s favourite birds, the Great Grey Owl, with whom he had developed a special bond.

She was very affectionate and keen to be snuggled up to him which was lovely to see. However the Keepers reminded us that owls are wild creatures and always to be treated with the upmost respect. They should never be approached in the wild as they do not seek human interference. The owls at Knockhatch sanctuary are cared for very carefully and encouraged to behave as they would in the wild.

As an illustrator who loves drawing owls, being able to see these birds in flight, up close was invaluable. It gave me a greater understanding for how their wings work and the very particular movements of their heads and bodies. With the hands on part of the experience complete, Adam and I returned to the indoor sanctuary for a sketchbook session. We both got so much out of it and left with drawings of the Asian Brown Wood Owl, Steel the Siberian Eagle Owl, Blizzard the Snowy Owl, Pingu Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, a Spectacled Owl, African Spotted Eagle Owl and finally – Julie, the very noisy Kookaburra (who is of course not an owl!)

Aside from the drawings we made, Adam took fantastic photos and videos (used in this post), that I know will prove very useful for future sketching reference. I felt very lucky to have spent time with these spectacular predators and grateful for our time with the Knockhatch Keepers who look after their owls with great care, love and respect. Finally a huge thank you and shout out to my friends – the very creatively talented Amber, Fred and Summer. This was a very special present that I will never forget!

All photos by Alekadzie. Apologies If I have misremembered the exact names and gender’s of some of these Owls. I think I have recorded each species accurately, though you’ll forgive me if a year of pandemic has slightly muddled my memory of the day!

Chicken Cuddle

I was just having a sketchbook sort this morning, when I came across this little number…I think I would quite like to be snuggled up underneath a giant protective chicken right now! In these difficult times, I find that I get a great amount of pleasure from pictures and GIFS of animals, friend’s newborn babies and generally anything cute and cuddly. So I thought I’d share this in case you need a dose of that too! Watercolour and 8b pencil on recycled paper.

Magic Portals, New in the Owlstation Store!

I’m very excited to announce that my new range of products are now available on the Owlstation Store…and to reveal that they are in fact Magic Portals! Giving you the power to open a door to a distant land and all from the comfort of your own home…

My new selection of animated magnets and greetings cards work with augmented reality, so when viewed through your smartphone, they will come to life in your hands! They feature two designs; an enchanted, fairytale castle and a cosy, forest cabin, perfect for the nature lovers and fantasy fans in your life.

After such a strange and challenging year of lockdowns, I really liked the idea that even if you’re stuck indoors, you’d be able to find a momentary escape into a magical world. Inspired by my love of Ghibli films (hello Laputa!) fantasy epics like Game of Thrones and also exploring in the countryside, I wanted the animations to be soothing. Billowing candy-floss clouds, soaring dragons, cosy fires and secret owls.

I was a bit behind getting the new range ready for Christmas (I think the emotions and weirdness of the year definitely played their part!) so it really means a lot to me to finally be able to share this with you and add these goodies to the Store – my own little secret hideaway and safe space to create the art that I want to make! I hope you enjoy them too!

For my full range of prints and illustrated goods visit the Owlstation Etsy Store.

Massive thanks to @alekadzie for his amazing product photography and filming skills!

Barn Owl in Flight

This morning, I took a little time out from my planned work to draw some owls in my sketchbook. I’d been feeling the need for a little creative playtime for a while and finally decided to give into the urge for a few hours. I put on a podcast, grabbed a cuppa and just allowed myself to play. It was honestly so restorative and I’ll definitely be carving out some more time for this soon!



In my pursuit for drawing reference material, I came across this BBC Earth video ‘How Does An Owl Fly So Silently?’ and thought I’d share it with you. Apparently it’s to do with their large wings and small body, but the clip explains much better than I can! Barn Owls are such elegant, ethereal creatures, enjoy!

What’s been capturing your imagination lately? If you’ve got any recommendations for me, I’d love to know in the comments below.

Note: For the keen eyed among you, the second drawing is actually of a Short Eared Owl…Just wanted to share him in this owl post too!

Owlstation Store: Cabin Experiments

In between client projects (and trying to soak up us much of the Summer as possible) I’ve started work on the next range of products for the Owlstation Store. There’s still a lot to do, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse of some of the development work that’s been going on. Without giving too much away at this point…I’ve been practicing drawing lots of cabins!

Inspired in part by the awesome book Cabin Porn which features gorgeous, enchanting cabins from all over the world. But also by the idea of escaping somewhere secret, cosy and a little bit magical. My initial scribbled ideas, rough sketches and early thumbnails have started to come together and the new products are taking shape. I’ll be excited to share more soon, but for now here are a few more of those cabin experiments.

The Last Expedition: A Text Adventure Game

My brother Mikey and I have teamed forces again to create ‘The Last Expedition’ a text adventure game set in a frozen, dystopian future. Well, Mikey built it, wrote the story and composed the music for it, I just created the background art! It’s a work in progress (so a few bugs and unfinished sections) but I was excited to share how it’s come together…

Inspired in part by the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard and Arctic exploration, the story asks you to follow in the footsteps of a young, female explorer who has ventured onto the frozen wastes in hope of finding the now mythical landmark. As the adventure unfolds you are presented with choices about which icy paths to take, faced with decisions to make camp or push on risking frostbite and given the opportunity to investigate long forgotten structures.

Created during lockdown for Mikey’s final University project, it brought us closer together at a time when geographically we were quite far apart. Looking back at that time now, I realise just how special it was. We checked in on Skype every morning to discuss next steps for his compositions or coding. Briefly catching up on the news before checking our schedules and planning his deadlines. It gave me structure and emotional support in the midst of all that fear and uncertainty. Plus it was the most time we’d spent ‘together’ in years.

Though the game is a work in progress that we would both like to develop further – I’m very proud of what we achieved so far. You can listen to the entire soundtrack on Mikey’s Soundcloud page too, but here’s a taster from the Archive Facility…

If you like mystery, dystopian futures and ice, check it out! You can play The Last Expedition on Share My Game here. Don’t forget to wear headphones!

Project Flashback: Secret Life of Boys

Today I thought I’d share a little snapshot of one of my digital design projects – Secret Life of Boys, an interactive comedy for CBBC. I had an absolute blast working on three series of the show with our amazing digital team. As lead designer I was responsible for creating the user experience, interfaces, environment art – plus lots of fun graphic illustrations for game objects like stickers and secret treasure chests!

In the interactive version of the show, players can watch episodes, hunt for secrets, trigger bonus animations, stories and gags and explore the surreal, slightly magical world in which the characters live. Above and below are examples of some of the game screens along with an early wireframe.

Wireframes are almost like a blueprint for a game or digital experience. They help you to work out the best possible experience for a player, and take place before any visual design happens. Investing time on these at the start of a digital project can save a lot of time and effort down the line!…

I’ll share a bit more on this project in the future, but just wanted to let my games design flag fly a little today! Also, for any parents looking for something to keep the young ones entertained, I wanted to give Secret Life of Boys 3 a shout as a really lovely, fun series.

The Woods are Dark and Dangerous

owlstation illustration_the woods are dark and dangerous_2020I’ve been making more time to play in my sketchbook lately and draw things just for fun. Little, one off experiments based on references or prompts that I find particularly enticing and exciting. Raiding my Pinterest boards for images that have inspired me and then getting my art materials out to see what feels right.

Whilst not all of these experiments result in images I’m pleased with (aka ready to share on Instagram!) they’ve definitely been helping me develop my illustration skills and learn more about the mediums I work with. I was pleased with how this Crayola and pencil study turned out though…I added the owl separately after finishing the woodland background, sticking him on top collage style. I couldn’t resist adding a bit of typography underneath to encourage the story that was forming in my head!

Discovering Dungeons & Dragons

Owlstation_dungeons and dragons_character design_Englebert

For many years I’ve been keen to try Dungeons & Dragons.  As a gamer and fantasy lover I suspected it would be something I’d get on well with and its appearances in Stranger Things and before that The IT Crowd, spurred my intrigue further. However, although I’d been invited to join a few campaigns, it wasn’t until lockdown that I was finally able to make the time to play. In March, when a friend asked if I’d like to join their new online campaign (and my calendar was suddenly devoid of all weddings, birthdays and anything that would stop me from saying yes) I decided to go for it!

stranger things_dungeons and dragons_larger

We’re now several weeks into our Monday night sessions of dungeon crawling and I am completely hooked! I’ve met new friends, learned the basics of the game and been expanding my problem solving imagination. We play on Roll20, a website geared for online tabletop and role-play games. Whilst I can’t pretend I’d have had any clue how to set up our campaign or run the sessions as a Dungeon Master, I’ve been lucky to join some more experienced players who have been happy to show me the ropes.

Owlstation_dungeons and dragons_roll20 screenshot_2020

Something I didn’t expect, is that Roll20 enables you to see the dungeon or location your exploring and allows you to move your character through the environment. Whilst it’s fairly simple in it’s graphical style, it just adds so much to the fun. Creating and getting to know my character and his abilities has also been a source of great joy.

Engelbert Bramble Tamer, my Druid Gnome is curious, at one with nature and now able to transform into a handful of animals. He was a wolf in our previous session.

…that’s him at the top of the post there, I made a quick doodle. If you’ve been thinking about trying DnD yourself and are still unsure, let me encourage you to go for it! If you don’t know people that play already, I believe you can find new campaigns to join on Roll20. There are also lots of great online resources to teach you the basics and help demystify the rules. You might find your first session a bit overwhelming, I was unprepared and quite confused – but stick with it and you’ll soon find yourself drawn in to this vast, magical world!

Screenshot from Roll20 Campaign and Stranger Things image used here without permission. Drawing of Engelbert is my own!