ANNA CHARITY, HEADSPACE
Headspace, founded in 2010, is a digital platform that provides guided mediation sessions and preaches the importance of health and mindfulness. Another way they put it: a gym membership for your mind. For the many of us who struggle to maintain a balance between work and life, Headspace offers a useful tool, and an opportunity to recenter. We spoke to Headspace's Head of Design, the aptly named Anna Charity, to find out what it's like to work for a company whose main goal is "to improve the health and happiness of the world."
We asked Anna what Headspace looks for in the creatives they hire: "They say you’re only as good as your next piece of work. But what about the work you’ve done that you’re not necessarily proud of? And how has that led you to making better decisions? We don’t see enough failure in portfolios. But it’s that contrast that makes someone’s body of work rich. It’s the cracks that add weight, worth, value and personality to a portfolio."
In keeping with the balance that Headspace promotes, we made sure to also find out what Anna focuses on in her free time: "Music in its many forms. Listening to it, seeing it live. I’d say most of my drive comes from music and has ultimately shaped my passions, interests, [and] beliefs."
Tell us a bit about your background and career journey.
I always fancied myself as a musician but being adept at the oboe was nowhere near cool enough for me! Thankfully I had another outlet, which was art. After a year in college in the depths of the Welsh valleys, I ventured down to Brighton (UK) to do a degree in illustration. I think I became quite disillusioned with the idea of being an illustrator. And the fact was, I couldn’t envisage getting a steady wage packet from it! But whilst I was at university I became interested in other areas, such as animation and design. I loved the process of thinking in narratives and seeing illustration being brought to life. I also loved the problem solving aspect of design and after graduating I enrolled in a traineeship in interactive media to learn the ways of the web. So I ventured down to London and started working at a digital production company called specialmoves, getting my teeth sunk into web design and animation – when Flash was all the rage! Since then I went on to freelance for various agencies and production companies such as B-Reel and The Mill. A year ago I moved stateside to LA where I now work for Headspace.
How did you end up at Headspace?
I was introduced to Rich Pierson and Andy Puddicombe (the co-founders of Headspace) by someone I freelanced with at B-Reel in London. Back then Headspace existed mainly as an events company but wanted to reach a larger audience, so I was initially brought on to design the first version of the app and to develop their already existing brand. Following that, I took a sabbatical and embarked on a 9 month trip around South America, returning to Headspace full-time. That was three years ago and I’ve since been involved in a re-brand and the launch of V2, which is the current version of the app.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Being part of a project whose main mission is to improve the health and happiness of the world and to be entrusted with developing a brand that literally makes a huge impact on peoples' lives is pretty awesome. I’m super lucky to be working with a brilliant team of talented and inspiring people. And it’s not very often you work on a brand where you’re given creative free reign and the support to realize ideas, no matter how off the wall.
What’s your creative outlet?
Music in its many forms. Listening to it, seeing it live. I’d say most of my drive comes from music and has ultimately shaped my passions, interests, beliefs etc. But apart from creating 46-hour playlists, my outlets lie in the usual arenas of most creatives - traveling and exploring different cultures, reading of books, art, history, architecture, conversation, curiosity – the list could go on! I recently visited New Orleans and was hugely inspired: the history, the music, the food, and the architecture. It’s such a rich, soulful and rhythmic place where music informs everything. The thought of working there remotely has crossed my mind, but I fear I would melt in the intense heat and humidity!
Describe Headspace in 3 words.
Innovative, playful, curious.
What qualities are most important in a prospective freelancer?
Inquisitiveness, charm, passion, ambition and of course talent. We have values as a company, but what are the individual’s values? How can their insights and opinions inform and enhance the brand? Whilst at the same time having a sensitive approach and understanding the needs of a brand?
Which social networks do you prefer for stalking people, creative or otherwise?
I don’t tend to do a whole lot of stalking besides checking out a portfolio. It’s the work I’m mostly interested in. Though if they have an Instagram account I’ll usually take a peek at that. And if they have a Spotify account, all the better – I love nosing through peoples playlists!
What are you looking for in a portfolio that's unique to Headspace?
Contrast. Unfinished stuff. As a creative I think it’s always hard to see anything as finished. How could they have taken a project further, what would they have done otherwise? An understanding of typography is essential, because that’s the foundation of good design. Self-initiated projects, what makes you tick outside the day job? They say you’re only as good as your next piece of work. But what about the work you’ve done that you’re not necessarily proud of? And how has that led you to making better decisions? We don’t see enough failure in portfolios. But it’s that contrast that makes someone’s body of work rich. It’s the cracks that add weight, worth, value and personality to a portfolio. How can a portfolio offer a less filtered/overly edited, more honest view? I think all these values exemplify what Headspace is about – honesty, playfulness and curiosity.
What's your favorite thing on the internet this week?
How much time do you spend on each portfolio? And how long before you make a gut reaction on the portfolio?
It can range from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes. I normally get a gut reaction within the first few seconds but will explore enough until I feel that this is the right person for the job or not.
What do you judge first?
Music taste. Joking - typography.
What kind of talent makes you warm inside?
The kind of person who doesn’t know how good they are. Especially in this day of constant self-promotion where we are all trying to amplify our worth. That charm and humbleness makes me warm inside. And a sense of humour. It’s surprisingly hard to find people who can laugh at themselves. If you’ve got a kickass portfolio but you take yourself too seriously, well life is too short for that.
Portfolio trends you wish would go out of style? What drives you nuts?
It drives me nuts when people talk about themselves in the third person, it’s pretentious and unapproachable. Don’t do it.
Best piece of advice you can give about portfolios, personal websites, and resumes?
Mix it up. Be bold, colourful, and shout about your personal work. Coming from the UK where people seem to be alot more self-deprecating about their work to the US where it’s the norm to big yourself up (no matter how good/bad your portfolio is) has been an interesting thing for me. I’ve received many cover emails where people have sounded like they work in sales. ‘Forsake all other designers!’ Only to discover that I’ve seen better layout skills from a 3 year old kid with chronic diarrhea. So yeah, it’s about recognizing your talent but being honest and humble about it.
Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to add?
Get your inspiration from looking at other things besides other people's work. It’s unhealthy and a recipe for self-comparison. Try and steer away from looking at design all together. How can a tin of baked beans inspire you to create something unique? Don’t overlook the ordinary. And never underestimate the power of music.