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Somerset students' unusual task: to design a coffin
Spencer Poole stands next to his coffin design
Spencer Poole said he found the unusual project really interesting

Graphic design students at Somerset College were given a rather unusual brief for one of their projects.

The college had been approached by Co-Operative funeral directors in Bridgwater who wanted students to design a bespoke coffin.

The winning design would be made into a full-size coffin.

After receiving over 100 entries, student Spencer Poole's design of a photo board with messages and photographs was deemed the best.

Mr Poole said a coffin covered in memories would be a "nice way to give somebody the right sort of send off."

The idea came to him when he noticed that when people attend funerals, they tend to bring flowers and leave messages which family and friends then walk around, so he thought "why not put it onto the coffin?"

"Now people can walk around them (his coffin design) and be part of it and reminisce, and feel part of the service and be part of the person rather than it being a person in a box.

"This is their life and they're surrounded by their life at that moment and perhaps, in a strange way, you'll be taking your memories with you."

Machine gun coffins

Mr Poole said he thought the project was really interesting.

"We can't discount the fact that we're all going to pass away at some point so we've perhaps got to think about the way we're going to go."

To help with the creative process, students had a coffin brought into the classroom.

"I guess a lot of people may have found that shocking because you're coming close up to something that's quite emotive," said Mr Poole.

"But from my point of view it was really important because you don't get to see these all the time and if you do, they tend to be at the back of a hearse and you don't get to have an idea of the size of them.

"Yes, they're the size of a person, but for the construction of it you really need to get your hands on it."

Carl Middleton, head of graphic design at the college, said: "I thought the percentage of wholly inappropriate pieces of work would be higher.

"I thought we would get 60% useful design, and 40% of things which would be machine gun-peppered coffins but we didn't."

He said one of the students had lost a parent the week before "so it was very difficult but they really embraced the project."

Ben Sharp, manager of Co-Operative Funeral Care said he was pleased with the competition entries.

"We wanted to try and open that field of thought that yes it's an incredibly emotive subject but it is also an incredibly personal thing and it can be a fantastic way of really personalising a celebration of life."

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