BEHIND THE SCENES
Making Meditation Look Fun
Meet the designer behind Headspace’s playful visual vibe.
Headspace: Meditation & Sleep
Stress less & relaxing sounds
If you’ve spent any time seeking inner peace with Headspace, you’re well aware that the popular meditation app doesn’t take itself too seriously. The playful illustrations and animations sprinkled throughout the Headspace landscape are more likely to depict someone meditating on a park bench than a mountaintop.
“Often people have been put off meditation by the mystical language, and visually they think of chakras and pebbles and incense,” says Anna Charity, the app’s head of design. Her art directions have lightened (and enlightened) Headspace since it launched in 2012 and were key to establishing the app’s unique tone.
There’s a practical reason Charity’s visuals shy away from the sanctimonious. “We show our meditators sitting on trains or in the park, so people can visualize themselves engaging with the practice in everyday situations,” she says
Which makes sense, given that Headspace was created in part to demystify meditation.
“An idea that’s really important to us is to meet people where they are,” she explains. “We’ve tried to bring humor in wherever possible and appropriate so learning doesn't feel like a chore.”
Thus cartoonlike meditators ski, cook, skateboard, and pirouette across the screen. We see them sitting with eyes closed in playgrounds as others around them chat on swing sets or carry boom boxes.
“It’s completely in line with the meditation principle called beginner’s mind, which is all about a playful, almost childlike approach to meditation and life.”
Meeting people where they are is what the app became famous for and continues to evolve. Its guided meditations, soothingly led by Headspace cofounder Andy Puddicombe, a former monk, can be as short as one minute.
“That’s why we had to make Headspace available on your phone—it’s the device you use to manage all your essential relationships, so what better home could there be for your meditation teacher?”
Charity, a devoted meditator herself, encourages others to create space for the practice. “People are so busy these days, they might only have a few minutes a day to look after their minds,” she says. “We’re ready and waiting when they have the time.”