Doreen Lorenzo: How did you find design? Or did design find you?
Anna Charity: From an early age I was always into the visual side of things. I remember my mom would be like, “Where’s Anna?” And I’d be locked away in my room drawing. I’ve always been fascinated by the way that illustration, and specifically characters can inspire and delight, so I enjoy creating stories and made-up characters, playing around with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of life. I was also very inspired by the animated sections in the Monty Python shows. I just loved the silliness of them. I think humor has always been important for me because it’s that tone of voice that adds to the charm and relatability of what you’re creating. I eventually went on to study illustration, but I think I became a little disillusioned with the idea of being a full-time illustrator, especially as I was interested in other areas such as photography, design, and animation. But I especially enjoyed seeing illustration being brought to life–which I found magical. And it didn’t have be confined to children’s books or editorial. It could stretch across design, advertising, and editorial, and, most importantly, it could be used to communicate ideas. I also loved the problem-solving aspect of design.
DL: What were some of the challenges you encountered from a design perspective?
AC: Meditation is a skill, and it’s also a hard thing to explain. Moreover, it has a lot of clichés attached to it. We wanted to offer more of a raw, honest look at meditation as something that feels more accessible, rather than the mystical faraway imagery that a lot of people don’t necessarily relate to. Headspace is about using meditation to deal with the challenges we face in life. It’s not about zoning out or escaping our problems. The fact that we have access to all these incredible stories through Andy (the cofounder and voice of Headspace) means we can talk about meditation in a compelling way. And these narratives have become an integral part of the experience.
DL: Does it differ from culture to culture as you design this? This is an international program.
AC: One of the main things that we considered when we created the brand was that meditation should feel like it’s for everybody, and it should feel accessible and inclusive. More importantly, we try to show meditation in a really everyday way–we show it in contexts that people can easily imagine. And one thing that all of us have in common is, is that we have a mind. Ever since Headspace’s inception we have always used characters and storytelling to explain meditation. As we all know, our minds are a complex place. They are full of different thoughts and emotions, and it isn’t always an easy place to inhabit. (That’s the reason meditation is so valuable.) From this, we knew we had to develop a style that communicated these ideas in an approachable and relatable way. And more importantly we found that characters are a great vehicle to represent the weirdness inside your head because they feel playful and memorable.
DL: What are some of the trends you’ve seen in the design space that have changed over time?
AC: One of the biggest things to consider is that designers have to wear so many hats now, and our roles tend to be less specific, but more specific at the same time. There are so many disciplines in design now–you’ve got UX, product UI, art direction, service design, interaction design, design research, the list goes on. As designers we need to approach things from a strategic point of view, from a brand point of view, the user point of view, data metrics point of view. And design is becoming part of the conversation so much earlier on in the process now. It’s great that people who aren’t designers recognize the need for this. You could say everyone has an opinion on design, which is amazing from a collaborative perspective–it’s a healthy conversation, but does it slow down the process? You can certainly look at that from both sides. We also talk about design so much more now, from a cultural and social context. We are much more aware of good design, and bad design. I also think today, more than ever we are drawn to beauty in the functional form. Design and the processes around it are changing all the time. But it’s an exciting place to be nonetheless.