Wabi Sabi: Design Inspiration

21 September 2023

4 Mins Read

In the world of design, perfection has long been the goal. Clean lines, flawless symmetry, and impeccable precision dominate the realm of modern digital design. However, there’s a Japanese philosophy that challenges this notion, urging us to embrace the beauty of imperfection – Wabi Sabi. Rooted in the appreciation of natural flaws and the passage of time, Wabi Sabi invites us to see the world through a different lens. In this article, we’ll explore what Wabi Sabi is and how it can be applied in digital design, where the pursuit of perfection often reigns supreme.

What is Wabi Sabi?

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic philosophy, a term derived from two words: “Wabi,” which roughly translates to simplicity, rusticity, and the beauty of imperfection, and “Sabi,” which means the bloom of time and the melancholic beauty of decay. Together, they form a concept that celebrates the beauty found in the imperfect, the transient, and the natural.

Kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery with gold, is a well-known example of Wabi Sabi in action. Instead of concealing the cracks, Kintsugi highlights them, turning broken pieces into something even more beautiful. In essence, Wabi Sabi asks us to see value in the broken and the imperfect, much like finding beauty in the aging and weathering of materials.

Headspace: An Example of Digital Wabi Sabi

A prime example of Wabi Sabi in the digital realm can be found in the design of the Headspace app. Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation app known for its serene and user-friendly interface. One of its iconic elements is the “imperfect circle” used in its branding and design.


This circle isn’t a perfect geometric shape; instead, it carries subtle irregularities, mimicking the natural variations found in hand-drawn circles. This imperfection lends an authentic and approachable feel to the app’s design. It reminds users that perfection isn’t the goal of meditation; rather, it’s about embracing the journey, including its imperfections and idiosyncrasies.


Wabi Sabi challenges the conventional notions of perfection in design, inviting us to find beauty in the imperfect and transient aspects of our digital world. In an era where precision and symmetry often reign supreme, embracing Wabi Sabi principles can breathe life into digital design, infusing it with a sense of authenticity, tranquility, and a deeper connection to the natural world. By seeking inspiration from the philosophy of Wabi Sabi, digital designers can create experiences that resonate with users on a profound level, celebrating the beauty of imperfection in our increasingly digital lives.

Wabi Sabi in Digital Design

While Wabi Sabi is more commonly associated with tangible materials like ceramics, textiles, and interiors, it can also find a meaningful place in the digital design landscape. Digital design often leans towards sterile perfection, with clean lines, sharp angles, and pixel-perfect precision. However, embracing Wabi Sabi principles in digital design provides a refreshing alternative. 

  • Natural Imperfections: In the digital realm, Wabi Sabi might manifest as the deliberate inclusion of natural imperfections in design elements. This doesn’t mean chaotic or cluttered designs but rather a subtle infusion of asymmetry, organic shapes, or irregular patterns that mirror the unpredictability of nature.
  • Minimalism with a Twist: Wabi Sabi minimalism doesn’t reject simplicity but celebrates it in a more organic way. Instead of stark, sterile minimalism, it embraces a sense of calm and tranquility by incorporating elements that evoke the beauty of the natural world. This might look like using flat shapes or color that references nature. 
  • Embracing the Unplanned: Wabi Sabi digital design might also involve leaving room for serendipity or “happy accidents” in the creative process. This can lead to unexpected design outcomes that add character and uniqueness to a digital product. This might mean looking outside the box when creating digital assets. Going back to traditional mediums that allow error and asymmetry in image making.

So the next time you are working on a digital design campaign – consider Wabi Sabi as a way of setting yourself apart from the sea of sleek, minimalist design and embrace earthy imperfections.