3 character archetypes you should be using to create better visual stories in your work

Stories are meant to teach, entertain and connect us, and one essential part of human storytelling – the archetype – is experiencing a revival in digital imagery. Learn what the three main archetypes are and how to incorporate them into your work.

As brands move away from promotional messaging in favour of more engaging content, it has become necessary to create visual stories that deeply resonate with consumers. Archetypes are an interesting starting point for branding and advertising campaigns and have been used in various forms over the past decades. Brands today are aspiring to become even stronger storytellers, particularly as costs increase for creative content marketing and native advertising.

Archetypes are in many ways enduring, but their visual representation evolves over time. Consider three of the most common archetypes: the Caregiver, the Creator and the Explorer. Brands and advertisers wanting to connect with their audiences must follow how these visual forms change in order to use the power of archetypal imagery to its fullest.

The Madonna, for example, is one of the most prominent visual representations of the Caregiver archetype. Stereotypically, this archetype is female, but as gender roles change, modern mothers are no longer visualized as saint-like and innocent, and fathers are playing a more nurturing part in family life.

 The Creator archetype is becoming more important as creativity and entrepreneurial spirit develop into highly-valued character traits... We appreciate those who create products of unique and lasting value, especially as digital technology continues to transform how we connect with the world.

Spirit, curiosity and opportunity are concepts connected to the idea of exploration. The Explorer archetype seeks out new and authentic experiences, from fascinating discoveries in our universe, to the everyday adventures available in one’s own backyard.

In this feature, Getty Images provides examples of imagery that portrays a new take on these archetypal characters. 

Download these images: Young daughter being held by mother and Spaceman

The Caregiver is also present in characters that advocate on behalf of others. Caregivers are compassionate, nurturing and dedicated.

Download this image: Senior man embracing son, outdoors

Let’s compare the characters Mary Poppins, Mrs Doubtfire and Driss from The Intouchables – they are all based on the idea of the Caregiver but illustrate how the representation of this archetype has developed and changed over time. 

Download this image: Mother and daughter portrait

The archetype of the Caregiver is traditionally female. However, many recent advertising campaigns portray the caregiving role with a more modern definition.

Download this image: Father and son enjoying a moment

The Creator archetype is expressive, imaginative and inventive – think of characters like Pinocchio’s Geppetto, or Doc Brown in Back to the Future.

Download this image: Augmented reality

Content featuring the Creator archetype spans widely from images of artists and craftsmen to inventive kids and genius scientists.

Download this image: Stories about Home

Companies with products connected to the idea of innovation and creativity also incorporate the Creator archetype into their advertising and marketing messaging.

Download this image: Two stylish young women sitting on couch with TV

While Explorers stereotypically are represented as male characters, we increasingly see women shown as curious and adventurous.

Download this image: A woman sitting on a bench looking up at stars

The Explorer places you in the driver’s seat – challenging you to venture forth and be bold.

Download this image: Couple at party Jumping into pool clothed