Archetype in Digital Design, 3

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In previous articles we introduced the concept of archetypal design in machine interfaces. Today we take a deeper dive into the four native human archetypes that might also be inferred into machine mechanics, therefore providing a bridge into our topic: the machine-human liaison: interface design.

The four primary archetypes are like the legs of a sturdy table. On top of these four primary perspectives a stable and even platform may be constructed, which forms the basis for any perspective, point-of-view or action taken. Like table legs, take away even one of the archetypes and we are left with a very unstable platform. Take away two and it’s highly unlikely we’ll be left with a table. Take away three and a stable platform is most certainly but a memory.

Unlike table legs, however, each of our archetypes is quite unique in its functioning, perspective and use both in human, and machine communications. These relate to the four fundamentals of grammar (Chomsky) as well as to the four basic ‘types’ in scores of human ‘personality test’ systems, from the Middle Ages’s ‘Four Humors’ to today’s ‘Myers Briggs’.

The four archetypes refer to intrinsic aspects of stability in our world. You could say they are like the cardinal directions of the compass: North, East, West, South. All are equal, yet each is uniquely indispensable in effective and efficient navigation. It is possible to get somewhere with a car that doesn’t make left-hand turns, but why would you choose a vehicle that could only navigate forward, back or to the right?

To the person, the four archetypes are innate aspects of a social construct:

1) Powerful: big picture thinker
2) Empathic: relationship thinker
3) Active: activity, action-oriented thinker
4) Key: analytical, task-related thinker


Architectonics overlay indicating the four primary archetypes plus associated colors and functions (above).

To the machine, the four archetypes are innate aspects of a digital construct:

1) Structure: what elements and in what sequence; how the topic binds together
2) Connection: what and with whom the topic connects
3) Design: how the topic is styled and looks in imagery
4) Calculation: what variables are involved and any figures involved

While there are potentially an infinite number of ways to apply these four elements towards the development of excellence in design, here are a few ways to look at applying these fundamental ‘building block’ archetypes:

• Access to fundamental perspectives in any online transaction or interaction
• Breakdown of each constituent component in user interface design
• Analysis of whether or not an interface is appealing to a wide variety of human processing types
• Understanding of the emphasis of specific software, based on relative constituent analysis
• ‘Lowest Common Denominator’ process flow: if it can’t be done in four steps, why not?

Architectonics analysis demonstrates a variety of configurations for the four basic building blocks.

We will be providing further diagrams and charts illustrating several of these flows in subsequent posts.

Seen through the lens of branding archetype is not only an amazing access point to UX design fundamentals, it is a lighthouse shining towards a fresh notion of history and even the development of paradigm; towards a sustainable and on-going renaissance of society, creativity and commerce.

Bryce Winter is a chef, inventor, consumer and gastronome in the field of brands and branding. His elementary work as a UX Architect is in the area of taxonomy; a field necessarily influenced by archetype within his humanist approach to communal knowledge. Bryce’s public branding work was with significant global and local players and was effective for scores of brands from cigarette nationals to top bottled water brands and major Canadian, French and UK brands including CHANEL, Evian, Coca-Cola and TD Canada Trust.

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