Death can be a difficult topic to discuss, and despite its inevitability we can be left feeling surprised or unprepared when confronted with it. A new book, How to Die Well, aims to change this by looking at the four stages of death, from ‘Before you Go’ and ‘Your Funeral’, to ‘Saying Goodbye’ and ‘Good Grief’.

The book, produced by life insurance company Royal London and creative agency Rankin, explores these processes through illustrations by Italian-born, Denmark-based artist, Andrea Ucini. Ucini’s understated style makes a poignant foil for the complexity of the subject matter, with his neat images drawing everyday scenes in simple linework. The muted colour palette and pure form gently subvert the mundane, with the prosaic nature of his portraits lending acceptance to death’s role in life.

An illustration depicting a dog waiting by an unworn coat from the book How to Die Well
Saying Goodbye - Pets and Death
An illustration depicting a Muslim funeral from the book How to Die Well
Muslim Final Goodbye

In Saying Goodbye, a couple are divided by a fractured bridge. In Pets and Death, a dog rests behind his owner’s unworn coat and boots which dress an invisible profile. In Before You Go, a couple pause a bike ride to hold each other. Your Funeral depicts a solitary pianist returning to the stage for his final bow, Good Grief a woman embracing emptiness.

The illustrations are a complement to the book which, alongside practical advice from settling estates to writing a will and saying the final goodbyes, offers personal essays; including from photographer Rankin who reflects on his parents’ death. It looks into often stressful issues including palliative care, funeral poverty and assisted dying in a bid to open the conversation around death. §

An illustration depicting a woman hugging nothing from the book How to Die Well
Good Grief
An illustration depicting a pianist going out for the final curtain call
Your Funeral
An illustration depicting a man by the sea giving a young boy his sailboat
Before You Go
An illustration depicting a boat sailing out to sea
Saying Goodbye
An illustration depicting a couple hugging by a bike
Before You Go
An illustration depicting a man at his desk writing a will
Before You Go - Writing a Will