Archetypes: Signs, Symbols & Themes

Fostering creativity through universal understanding with Archetypes in Branding by Hartwell & Chen.


In creative work, we’re always looking at how people perceive companies, products and brands and integrate them into our daily lives.

How will the consumer use the product or interact with the brand? These are value propositions that sit squarely in the rational mind – the left side of your brain. I like coffee, so which one will I choose? I need a bank that is convenient, so which one provides easy access? Sustainability is important to me, so which brand is more “green”?

But what if the perception of a brand has more meaning than just its utilitarian purpose? Can a brand tap into something deeper, more universal in all of us? This is the thesis of Margaret Pott Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen’s “Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists.” This workbook illuminates how to apply universal themes and symbols into our creative strategy. But first, what are archetypes?

As we were writing this article, a friend shared a fun PlayBuzz Quiz “Which Jung Archetype Best Describes You?” While this quiz certainly isn’t a comprehensive exploration of archetype, it does provide insights about what universal themes or symbols speak most to us as individuals: The Adventurer – a restless nomad; The Ruler – a seeker of order; or The Caregiver – a loving helper. Identifying archetypes within ourselves is the first step in exploring the rich life of the right side of the brain. These are signs, symbols and themes that exist across time and generation and are inherently human.

The renowned psychologist and philosopher Carl Jung believed that humans experience patterns of thoughts and symbols through the past collective experience of humanity and that these are present in the unconscious human mind. He called these the imago, and the way we perceive and channel these archetypes affects our personalities and behavior. Whether or not you believe in the collective unconscious, any student of human behavior can observe these archetypes operating daily – in myths, fairy tales, television shows, books, magazines. Archetypes are all around us.

Hartwell and Chen’s fascinating and fun foray into archetypes can help “facilitate greater authenticity and meaning in our brand work” by moving the conversation and brand from the cognitive realm to the more intuitive. This workbook outlines 60 different archetypes and outlines strengths, challenges and examples of each archetype. The pop out cards for each archetype visually display images, colors and symbols for each meant to spur the creative process.


The way marketers have traditionally learned about and communicated with audiences is to understand them through demographics and psychographics – what age is the customer, what do they like, what motivates them. Hartwell and Chen argue that this understanding of a brand’s audience is largely through the left brain and is inherently reductionist. But what if we can find a way to bridge these two ways of thinking, of being to create a larger sense of meaning, one that’s more universal and holistic?

Take a look around. See which brands are already doing this. Starbucks’ logo for example; does it represent enlightenment? Nike’s swoosh; is it the adventurer? Pop out the cards in this book, put them around your office, open your mind, and begin to let your creativity flow.

In an age in which many people crave a deeper sense of connection to their work and want business to demonstrate greater integrity and accountability, the creative and mindful attention to archetypes can facilitate a more authentic, holistic and human way of being in business.”

Find out more… order the book, or contact us about how you can integrate archetypes into your brand.

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