Striving for Outstanding Product Design in the Funeral Industry

Product Designer Steven Smith

Introducing Steven Smith: Our Innovative Product Designer 

It may seem a little strange introducing a man who, in some way, shape or form, has been with us for almost 30 years. However, after a varied career at the cutting edge of product design in various industries, we are hugely excited to finally welcome Steven Smith as a permanent member of the Tributes team!  

We sat down with Steven to understand more about his processes and background, including his history with Tributes. Read on to find out more about how this innovative product designer is breathing new life into the funeral industry, addressing environmental concerns and turning the rule book on its head.  


Steven’s History with Tributes 

Steven first joined the company in a very unofficial manner when the company was founded in 1994. Since his first freelance engagements with Tributes, he has contributed a great deal towards our catalogue of products.  

Our stunning and ever popular woven coffins which we sell today would have originally been roughly sketched on the back of an envelope by founder Richard Bush and taken to Steven who, in turn, had the job of fleshing these sketches into something which could be sent to manufacturers. His ability to take a simple 2-D drawing and turn it into a thing of beauty is evident in our stunning Ringmer Caskets, designed with sleek, rounded corners and made with sustainable bamboo.  


Steven’s Background and Experience 

Having started his career with high-quality furniture design training, Steven went on to work across various freelance projects, always keen to reimagine existing products with his critical and creative eye. His design credentials even led him into education, and he spent many years working as a lecturer for both Brighton and Sussex Universities, eventually going on to become the course leader for Product Design (BSC).  


Steven’s Processes  

As a designer, Steven is not one to fall into the trap of traditional, rigid ways of thinking when it comes to creating products. He is an innovator in the truest sense of the word, always resisting conformity and striving to find better ways of redesigning the day-to-day products which have never truly been challenged before. Describing the funeral industry as “fascinating, important and urgent”, he clearly sees the impact that the right products and services can have for a family in grief. 

The funeral industry has rested comfortably in the realms of tradition for far too long, with there often being a focus towards functionality whilst beauty, subtlety and personality are often sidelined. Challenging these traditions was, in many ways, fundamental to the conception of Tributes, with Founder Richard Bush believing that coffins, urns and keepsakes could, and should, go much further than functionality alone. It was for this reason that Steven’s innovative approach to product design shone like a beacon of hope for us a company.  

Now firmly part of the team, Steven has been engaging in thorough research to understand human behaviour around grieving, analysing shifting trends in the funeral industry and getting to grips with the practical realities that Funeral Directors and crematoria face on a daily basis. At Tributes, we have always valued the contributions and suggestions of the Funeral Directors and crematoria who we work closely with and have designed various products to address the needs of consumers. After receiving feedback from a Funeral Director about a customer’s concerns about leaving their partner’s buried ashes behind when they moved home, Steven helped develop our HighDown Urn, a uniquely designed urn which can be buried just below ground level, above which sits a sleek personalised memorial plaque. After burying the urn and displaying the plaque, the HighDown Urn can be easily relocated and transported in the event of the bereaved moving house.  

Steven also cares deeply about environmental concerns, a value which is shared by Tributes as a business. As our environmental task force continue to work towards achieving B Corp status, we are deeply grateful to have a product designer who cares enough about the environment that he is ready to roll up his sleeves and completely re-examine our existing range and discover the most sustainable approaches to designing, manufacturing and shipping our future products.  


Striving for Excellence in the Funeral Industry 

Here at Tributes, we understand the importance of providing products which are not only reliable and functional but also honour the memory of the deceased, supporting families in their grief and helping them truly celebrate the lives of their loved ones. With Steven as part of our team, we feel more confident than ever in our ability to meet the needs of Funeral Directors, crematoria and families across the world.  


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English Willow Teardrop Coffin
Ringmer Casket
HighDown Urn

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