The past few weeks have been rough for me as I am dealing with the loss of my brother in law, Ethan Naschitz. After tweets like this one, I got some heart warming comments/questions to see whether I was OK. I can tell you I am (given the circumstances), and the Tweet is actually less morbid than it sounds. Part of daily life in Israel.

Building on this, I had to go through the interesting experience of actually designing a gravestone for Ethan. It is surprising to see that a whole industry is built around the loss of people, including graphics designers that specialize in this type of design. Some guide lines that I hope you will never have to use:

  • Less is more. A stone filled with white space looks much more beautiful. Cut as many details as you can, focusing all the attention to the name and maybe just years of birth and death. It is always tempting to put quotes, descriptions, details, but would your relative have liked them? Would you still like them in 10 years? Would visitors appreciate them in 2,000 years? Cut your font size. If you really would like to put in details, consider adding a "foot note" in small font at the bottom. From a distance the text will blur, when standing close, it can be read.
  • Get rid of symmetry. 99% of stones are centered, why? Why not left centered, bottom aligned? 
  • Very important: pick a good font, the standard fonts available are usually poor. "Can you do Helvetica Neue?" gave a blank stare.
  • Extra features available at a premium (filling letters with black, covering things in plastic) do not necessarily  improve the look.