LeAnn Locher: What's in a Name?

LLLeAnn Locher is the founder and President of LeAnn Locher & Associates, a Portland-based firm that provides branding, graphic design and communication services for socially responsible businesses, non profits and foundations. LeAnn graciously donated her time and talents to shepherd Death:OK through the process of determining our “brand” and shaping our public identity. Enjoy this conversation with LeAnn…

As part of the branding strategy sessions you lead us through various exercises designed to uncover what this event should be named and how we would represent ourselves graphically. The questions were a lot of fun to ponder, such as “If this event were a restaurant what would it serve?” and “If this event were a mode of transportation what would it be?” So my question to you is: if LeAnn Locher were a beverage what would she be and why?

I’d be sangria! Sangria is a mix of the unexpected: fresh fruit, wine, liquor and bubbly or citrus. It can be so many different things, and I love that often the key to the best sangria isn’t expensive wine, but the cheapest you can get. Paired with seasonal fresh fruit—think of peaches and our delicious summer stone fruit—it’s like boozy dessert in a glass. And the more you have of it, the more fun the party gets. 

You have worked on a lot of different campaigns for a lot of events and organizations. What intrigued you to work with us?

I was intrigued to work with Death:OK because the concept of discussing death is so taboo, and you were talking about it openly, freely, with reverence as well as matter-of-factness. Gaining and moving public will is at the heart of my work, and here was a group looking at “the big taboo” that no one talks about and our culture denies: death. Also, because I saw so much potential in doing something fantastic with the working name of Festival of Life and Death.

You call what you do “storytelling” which I believe is so poignant. What story do you think the name of our event, Death:OK, Let’s Talk About It, tells?

Death:OK provides an easy to understand concept for both those inside and outside this place of working with/honoring death’s role in our lives. Knowing this event is mainly for those who are within this circle, it begins to give some language around what they all know: that death is a part of living, that it’s something to plan for, it’s something to recognize, and it’s something to not be afraid to talk about. For those outside this circle or sphere of recognizing death, it gives an easy to use phrase, OK, instead of falling into expected language of “celebration of life” and other phrases we’ve come to recognize as doom and gloom of traditional funerals, etc. The name itself begins to normalize the concept for everyone.

If you were to cook a meal to celebrate your ancestors what would be included on the menu?

If I were to cook a meal for my ancestors, it would include gathering friends around the raclette to melt copious amounts of cheese to smother potatoes, broccoli and onions (in celebration of my Swiss ancestors), followed by a buffet of jello salads (in celebration of my Kansas farm community heritage). Heck, I’d even throw in my grandmother’s cinnamon red hot apple slices as a garnish. I love celebrating culture through foods. There are so many stories there!

What is the most unusual item on your Bucket List?

To visit Uluru in Australia.

How has working on this project changed the way that you talk about dying and death?

Working on this project has given me words, language and concepts to talk about what I’ve believed for a long time but not given voice to because it seemed taboo: death is a fact of life, we are all going to die, and living with intention and for now means when the time comes to leave this physical world, we’ll be ready. No matter when that may be. The Avett Brothers have a song I that resonates so strongly with me: “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”


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