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IDEO Imagines Five Products That Remake the Ritual of Childbirth

A window onto moments that flit by because we have no rituals to mark them.

In our diversifying and increasingly secular society, rituals that unify us are dying by inches. But we still share a multitude of events, such as childbirth. Can new products and rituals stoke our memories and communal bonds? IDEO’s Designs On: Birth is the latest in a series of pamphlets offering products related to grand themes, such as global warming and food.

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Granted, IDEO’s tongue is planted firmly in cheek — and creating a ritual out of whole cloth is about has impossible as coining a new word. But the concepts nonetheless point to the simple fact that for even something as life-changing as birth, the modern world lacks the social structures to actually celebrate the moments that people remember.

Up top, the so called “Light of My Life” by Nicholas Zambetti. The idea is that upon birth, you get a block filled with candles, each one representing a year of life. With each passing year, you burn one. IDEO muses that you can think of them as “personal insight lights” — a yearly reminder to sieze the day, and consider the limited span we each have in this mortal coil.

Meanwhile, the film “Men in Labor,” by Andrea Mallard & the Munich studio, looks at the birth process through the man’s perspective — a group that’s often marginalized by hospitals and healthcare workers:

Another smart innovation helps signal to strangers that a woman is pregnant, even before she’s showing. A simple pink bangle bracelet by Katie Clark can be worn by a woman as early as the first trimester, both as a symbol of pride, or as a gentle cue to be used somewhere like the subway, so another person is more likely to give up his seat for her.

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The cutting of the umbilical cord is one of the most symbolic actions in childbirth — the severing of the physiological ties between mother and baby. Yet besides that little bellybutton we get to wear for life, there’s not much to memorialize the moment. This customized pair of scissors by Elger Oberweiz features a gold ring that slips from the handle and can be worn as a keepsake pendant.

This one’s a bit more jokey: A way to visualize what baby-to-be will be, by Mark Fisher: a set of dice that includes all the different possibilities for everything from personality to physical traits to genetic attributes. Maybe it feels a little Gattaca-ish; then again, genetic traits are already on every parent’s mind. This just makes the worrying and uncertainty concrete — diminishing it by making it seem manageable:

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The entire Designs On: Birth booklet can be downloaded at the Designs On site.

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About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato

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