François Chartrand

François Chartrand — Headspace

Canadian designer living the California dream in Los Angeles. Designing products that bring joy to people's lives.

What led you into design?

As a kid, I absolutely loved two things: skateboarding and punk rock. Those years were spent flipping through Thrasher Magazine and my vinyl collection, headbanging to the classics like Adolescents, Black Flag, and Zero Boys.

Something about the art on skateboards and hardcore records drew me in. I don’t know exactly when I made the decision that I wanted to be a designer, but after high school, with no skills and wanting to make a few bucks, I worked at a call centre as a summer job and also as a janitor for a while. It was grim. I knew that I wanted much more out of life and that if I wanted to be happy I needed to find something I truly enjoyed doing. Just making money wouldn’t be enough.

I started my design school journey in Canada and wrapped things up at SCAD in Savannah. Worked at a few agencies, was entrepreneurial, and eventually moved to LA. I’m lucky that my family supported me throughout all of this and am very privileged to be able to chase that dream.

What does a typical day look like?

I wake up as late as possible (I love to sleep) and brave the LA traffic. Get to work in Santa Monica, meditate, make myself an almond latte, and work with my team to bring health and happiness to the world.

At Headspace, we split UX and Product Design into two separate disciplines. I started as a UX Designer and eventually moved Product-side. Although most of my daily duties are visual design based, I enjoy dipping into the UX side of things when I can.

I’ve had a few different roles: user research/testing, working on the meditation experience, architecting our CMS from scratch, and most recently joining the growth team. It’s ever-changing but always exciting.

I shared some secrets to a calm work week over at Format if you want to dive deep into my rituals. You can also check out what a day in the life at Headspace looks like in my Medium post.

What’s your setup?

Andy (our in-house mindfulness guru and co-founder of Headspace) taught us a little trick: to keep your home screen blank, so that you intentionally swipe to browse your apps and add a layer of friction between the present moment and the digital world.

Even though I work on an app, Headspace is kind of like an anti-app. I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. I’m hooked, but trying to be more aware of usage. I’ve considered getting rid of my phone and setting up a landline.

Where do you go to get inspired?

The ocean. The desert. Palm Springs. I recently visited the Integration for a sound bath. It was an amazing experience. It’s supposed to recharge your cells, fill you with youthful energy, and help you live longer.

As for websites, the usual suspects: Awwwards, Little Big Details, Ueno.design, Product Pages, etc. Medium is always good for catching up on the latest industry discussions.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

Duane King’s NASA Pioneer Plaque replica had me in total awe. Launched into space in 1972, the idea is that it would serve as a galactic greeting card—should any extraterrestrial life come across it. It’s such a lofty ambitious goal—literally out of this world. I absolutely love it.

“It will be the oldest artefact of mankind. Because a billion years from now, mountain building and erosion will have destroyed everything on the Earth, but this plaque will remain intact.” —Carl Sagan

If you haven’t checked it out on Kickstarter yet, I recommend you do. As far as apps go, Wander has caught my eye recently. Neat idea and great execution.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

Headspace and Red Bull TV. Thanks to the incredibly talented people on both these teams, I’ve learned a bunch about designing multiplatform, design systems, working agile, and more. Headspace was featured in this year's Google I/O (video) and RBTV just won a Google Play Award. Definitely a career highlight!

What design challenges do you face at Headspace?

Our design team is nimble, diverse, and open. Everyone shares thoughts and values feedback. I couldn’t ask for better people to be around every day. Our management and VPs are receptive, so there’s not much we can’t solve quickly. As a company, scaling our culture while increasing our headcount. It’s going well, but it’s something I do think about as we grow.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Think about where you want to be in a year, five years, and jot down some milestones you can hit along the way. Stay focused but remain flexible. No matter how dull a project might seem, there’s always something to learn. Be interested and be interesting. Be kind. Everyone will enjoy your presence more, including yourself. Chase dreams, not the money. (Money follows)

Anything you want to promote or plug?

We just launched www.headspace.design. The idea is to fill it with ideas and insights from the team that we can share with the greater design community.

I like to share design stuff on Twitter and post everyday photos on Instagram, if you want to follow along.

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