Channeling the creator: Designing brand merch with stories
When we started ideating a wearable merch series for Public Works, we wanted to make something that sparks curiosity, prompts questions about what we do and calls for storytelling. Why? Because merchandise that gets people curious and triggers conversation are perfect to get them connecting with our brand in a meaningful way. Besides, stories are one of the most wonderful ways to share information and enjoy creative expression with another person. We also wanted to make our merchandise highly consumable, timeless product types that people of many generations can relate to across different cultures; This is why we decided to design Public Works merch around the most ubiquitous clothing item of our times—the T-shirt. And of course, it couldn’t be that standard logo on the T-shirt. Our brief to ourselves was to make it something that makes people curious about what Public Works does.
Just as we tell our clients, we started with the brand values. Public Works being a company with creative thinking at its core, we wanted to make merchandise that reflected this imaginative spirit through an interesting story. To trigger questions about what we do, we looked into our work process for a good story seed. This is how we ended up designing a T-shirt series portraying iconic personalities that represent Public Works’ primary brand personality archetype—the creator archetype.
An archetype is a prototype or a model; a primitive ‘type’ inherited from the earliest human ancestors and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious according to a psychoanalytic theory put forward by Carl Jung. At Public Works, we use these Jungian archetypes in our storytelling process for typifying brand personalities and projecting their values in stories.
We use Carl Jung’s archetypes as a way to model a brand personality that reflects the real values and beliefs of a business. Among these Jungian prototypes of the human psyche, the creator archetype is one of most interesting. This is the personality that wants to contribute to the world through its creativity—a trait that companies connected to innovation, imagination and ingenuity often want to associate with through their stories. We’ve constructed many stories for businesses that embody this archetype. The creator archetype is special to us as a business because it’s one of the two primary archetypes shaping Public Works.
When Carl Jung identified the creator archetype first, it was coined as ‘the artist’. We prefer to use the term ‘creator’ as it includes the whole spectrum of creative minds. “Who looks outside and dreams; who looks inside and awakes”, Jung wrote, explaining the way the creative minds work.
The T-shirt series we produced depicted three iconic creators who represented the power of the human imagination. Screen-printed entirely by hand, this limited edition T-shirt series featured the extraordinary woman Mirra Alfassa who created Auroville, Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and, of course, the psychoanalyst that dared to tread the line between scientist and artist—Carl Jung.
This T-shirt series triggered many conversations and people were curious to learn more about these personalities and what stands out about their creativity; Through that, they connected with Public Works at a more profound level with shared values like imagination and innovation, instead of just seeing our company name and logo. It’s equivalent to remembering a person through a deep and meaningful conversation and not just as a face with a name.
We now use this series to show our clients how branded merchandise can be much more interesting than just a T-shirt with a logo. Great merchandise uses elements, ideas, events or people that connect the consumers to the core of a brand; they have greater potential to create more conversation that connects to the values of a business.
We think there’s always room to bring good storytelling into branded merch. If you’re thinking about getting merchandise that tells your brand’s story in a more imaginative way, ask us how.