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Using Archetypes in Package Design

by Elizabeth Freeman on 06/14/2016 | 5 Minute Read

Behind the success of lifestyle branding is a brand’s ability to emotionally connect and build a relationship with its consumer. One of the key ways a brand can do this is by taking on human characteristics and creating a distinctive personality. Archetypes – a very typical example of a certain person or thing – have been a popular method in brand strategy but has not yet been embraced as a design method. In today’s increasingly visual landscape, archetypes can be used with the lens of visual heuristics to inform design choices that forge a consumer-brand connection. 


Archetypes have the ability to immediately conjure meaning because they embody a universally known set of characteristics. We all know these classic archetypes from literature and film: For example, The Hero is a courageous defender of the underdog, or the Caregiver, who is always empathetic and comforting, or The Outlaw who rebels against the status quo. Based on Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, with contributions from Margaret Mark’s and Carol Pearson’s “The Hero and the Outlaw”, we’ve adapted the twelve classic archetypes as tools in the visual process to guide strategic design choices. 


People rely on heuristics – mental shortcuts to make decisions – which are powerful when visual. Our brains are hardwired to process the world and its information visually, and it’s this unconscious autopilot mode of thinking that controls our decision-making. By applying visual heuristics to archetypes, we create a visual shorthand that taps archetypes’ universal meaning while leveraging a quick and intuitive way consumers naturally process information. 


Articulating the archetype visually sets the tone through its images, typography, and color. To demonstrate this process, we’ll use the example of FOND, a new line of bottled pan sauces. While most mainstream pan sauces carry the Magician or Explorer archetype – portraying either a quick way to flavor or a sense of flavor adventure – FOND utilizes the archetype of Creator to tap the creativity and inventiveness of cooking. In the board below, we pulled images that tap the essence of the Creator using the lens of home cooking in order to capture category relevance. 


The Creator archetype is driven by self-expression, using creativity and imagination to communicate a vision. To build a visual language, we pulled out specific characteristics of The Creator, like artistic control and skill, precision of execution, and personal vision. Those translate visually to a sense of process, intricate line work or pattern detail, and being handcrafted. There is also a sense of simplicity, tradition, and nature that stems from the current aesthetic of cooking. This board begins to establish a set of brand tenets to use in package design and beyond. 

The package design is rooted in a strategic visual language. There is a sense of tradition in the logo, nature in the color palette, heritage patterning, and hand-done fonts to convey a personal touch. By aligning the brand with an archetype, we create a clear impression of the brand for all stakeholders – client, designers, and consumers. By translating core archetypal traits visually we create a widely understood and intuitive representation that can foster a faster and more emotional connection. 


Written by Julia Hunter Rancone, Creative Strategist, and Jessica Ward Hill, Design Director at Ultra Creative, a creative studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With 30 years of experience, we are recognized for hard-working imaginations and strategic design. Specializing in package design, food trends, and consumer engagement. 

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