Anna Charity is a Designer, Illustrator and Creative Director of all things Headspace where she has been creating and nurturing the design aesthetic and brand since 2012. Her passion is to create experiences that make a positive impact on the world through design, illustration, character and storytelling.
We are lucky to have come across her work through our Creative Lady Directory and are so glad to be sharing her wisdom and whimsy with you today, enjoy!
Tell us about your path to becoming a freelance designer and illustrator and eventually head designer at Headspace.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way that illustration and characters can inspire and delight an audience. You can use simple lines and colors, create a face, and suddenly we can relate to it! And I was drawn to humor in animation through people like Terry Gilliam - I loved the animated sections in Monty Python from a very early age. I just loved the silliness of them. So I've always been creating stories and made-up characters, playing around with the quirks and foibles of life. From a stylistic point of view I like to experiment, but it’s the tone-of-voice and humor that's most important for me because it's those details that add the charm and relate-ability. Little things are important, even down to the voices, the subtleties of how they sound. I was also inspired by the American illustrator/designer Seymour Chwast. His work showed me that illustration didn’t have to just be confined to children's books, that it could stretch across design, advertising, editorial and, most importantly - that it could be used to communicate ideas, wrapped up in that similar surreal sense of humor of Terry Gilliam.
So after graduating with a degree in Illustration I moved to London and worked for various agencies and production companies such as B-Reel and The Mill. Then I met Rich Pierson in 2011 (the co-founder of Headspace). A mutual friend had shown him my portfolio and he liked my illustrative aesthetic. I had never previously meditated or thought about mediating, I think I was put off by all the mysticism and cliched imagery associated with it! So it was obviously a very exciting challenge to have the opportunity to essentially rebrand meditation and design an experience that feels far more accessible. Since 2011 I have created and lead the development of the design aesthetic and seen the company grow from 5 to 200 people!
In the beginning of your freelance career, how did you attract your first good clients?
By networking and speaking to as many relevant people as possible! And also by keeping my portfolio regularly updated and making sure it contained the kind of work I wanted to do, so I would get the kind of projects I was passionate about.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive? Do these tips differ for freelance versus full-time design work?
I think sitting at a screen all day requires a regular change of scenery. Whether that’s going for a walk, taking a break to read or sitting down to write or sketch. Though this takes some practice. When you’re working from home these activities can sometimes turn into procrastination! I’ve recently been doing morning pages (one of the exercise’s from ‘The Artist’s Way’) which involves writing 3 pages first thing in the morning, as a process to unblock the creative pipes. I’ve found the activity of writing (even though I am anything but a writer!) hugely beneficial for my productivity. I have noticed I’m questioning less and doing more.
What has been your greatest struggle as a creative so far?
The transition from individual contributor to managing a team and other people’s expectations has been a challenging one. I think for a lot of creatives the idea and act of managing doesn’t necessarily come naturally. It takes a very different mindset to genuinely feel passionate about nurturing someone else’s creativity outside of your own.
With the task of designing consistently for the same brand, how do you keep inspired?
I think it’s so important to keep a regular practice outside of our day jobs. Our real creative juices extend from our true passions in life. So I make sure to keep nurturing these which pretty much always feeds into my day job. I also get a ton of inspiration from traveling, reading, drawing and music in it’s many forms!
If you could give one piece of advice to your "just starting out self," what would it be?
Stop procrastinating, start doing and believe in yourself.
Do you have any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?
Where do I start?! I’ve recently been listening to a guy called Part Time, he’s got the low-fi 80’s vibe down. I’ve always been a big fan of Adam Buxton - a British Comedian. His podcasts are the perfect combination of informative, silly and hilarious. As mentioned I would also highly recommend ‘The Artist's Way’ for developing and growing your creativity.
Anything else that we missed that you'd like to share?
Don’t overlook the ordinary, question the hell out of everything and just remember we are all going to die anyway so make the most of it!
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a creative are:
Curiosity, courage, and a sense of humour :)