Build a Before I Die Wall

Learn how to create a Before I Die wall with your community and download resources to help you get started.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone

Thanks to thousands of people who have created walls for their communities, the Before I Die project has become a global movement in over 4,000 cities and 75 countries that invites people to contemplate death and reflect upon their lives together. Each wall is created by passionate people who want to make a space in their community to restore perspective and reflect with one another. If you’d like to build a wall, please read through the information below. It explains the aim of the project and answers some frequently asked questions. Then download our toolkit of resources, which includes a checklist of materials, a step-by-step guide, and options to buy readymade stencils or create your own. Thank you for your interest!

The Before I Die project is free for you to use. Please read through the guidelines and FAQ before downloading the toolkit.

The Spirit of the Project

We believe every community should have a Before I Die wall, so this concept is free for everyone to use. We hope you will follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Be free. A Before I Die wall should be accessible for everyone.
  • Focus on communication, not persuasion. A Before I Die wall should offer passersby a much-needed break from the messages in our public spaces which are trying to sell us something. Your Before I Die wall should be free of logos, slogans, website addresses, hashtags, etc—there’s already too much of this in the world. However, you are welcome to feature a sign next to your wall that includes a project description and credits, and this might be a good place to include your hashtags, handles, and internet stations, if needed. (You’ll find a sample placard in the toolkit.)
  • Please keep the word ‘die’ in Before I Die. There’s a lot of superstition and anxiety around the language of death, and we’ve seen many walls which have replaced “before I die” with something more oblique and gentle, such as “while I’m still alive.” While these variations are worthy exercises and you’re free to make any kind of wall you like, they are not Before I Die walls. A key part of our mission is to remove the stigma of discussing death and to help inject conversations about mortality into a visual landscape that is preoccupied with instant gratification, youth, and distraction. When we become comfortable talking honestly and directly about death, we can help change the culture around it, from one that is full of death denial to one where we confront mortality in a way that compassionately prepares us as individuals and as a community.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone

Frequent Questions

How do I make a Before I Die wall?

If you’d like to build the wall yourself, you can download our free toolkit below to help you get started. This folder of resources includes a checklist of the materials you’ll need, a step-by-step guide, and options to purchase readymade stencils or templates so you can make your own.

Alternatively, our team can build and maintain a wall for you. This can also include talks, workshops, or custom events to engage your community. Learn more here.

Can I use the Before I Die project to promote my product, organization, service, or conference?

The Before I Die project was not intended to be an open-source marketing tool or a free replacement for a well-considered public engagement campaign that is specific to your company, conference, service, or organization. If you’re interested in partnering with us to create something like this, please get in touch and let us know what you have in mind.

Can I create a remix of this project that uses a different prompt than 'Before I die'?

Absolutely. Our focus is on supporting conversations about mortality and emotional health in public space, but you’re welcome to create a different prompt that is unaffiliated with our project. You can view a dozen examples of remixes in the middle of the Before I Die project page. If it’s helpful, you can download our toolkit of resources for creating a wall, and we hope you will mention that your project was inspired by the Before I Die project.

How do I get local permission to make a Before I Die wall in my community?

Every city and town has different rules around public art. It’s helpful to begin by getting the blessing of people who live and work around your proposed site. It can also be helpful to speak to or partner with a local organization or institution that may have experience getting permission to install things in public space. We have included a letter of support at the end of the Before I Die guide that explains the breadth of the project and can be used if needed to help gain permission.

Will my wall be featured on the Before I Die website?

In the past we tried to feature every Before I Die wall on our website. Now that there are over four thousand walls and dozens more created each month, we’re unfortunately unable to create and maintain an online presence for every wall. You can find a closed archive of past walls here. We hope you will share your wall through your own networks and, if inclined, you are more than welcome to create your own web presence for your wall. We still love to see and share new walls through other channels. We feature many photographs of walls around the world on the Before I Die project page, and the Before I Die book contains many walls and the stories behind them. We also share images via social media of walls that use the project typeface and layout, and we try our best to represent a range of locations, languages, and reasons that individuals have created a wall. If you’d like to share your experience creating or writing on a Before I Die wall, please share your story with us here!

How can I find out if a Before I Die wall is currently up in a particular place?

Most Before I Die walls are temporary installations, and with dozens of new walls appearing each month, we’re unable to keep track of the status of each wall. If you know the organization or individual who created the wall you’re searching for, it might be helpful to get in touch with them.

Can Candy Chang speak at the opening of my Before I Die wall?

Candy has enjoyed speaking at many universities, conferences, and organizations about community, creativity, and emotional health. These talks directly support her public art works. If you’re interested, please get in touch.