How and why I created the Nockwood Deck

August 27, 2018


I find the traditional 12 Jungian archetypes limited. (There I said it!). They are too predictable and every brand has become far too comfortable with their archetype.  What was once used as a filter, or a lens through which brands became focused, has become a re-enforcer of the status quo, a convention rather than an inspiration for progress.


Archetypes became popular in an era where metaphor dominated communications and every brand was looking for a consistent narrative by which they could manage perceptions and imagery.  Times have changed. Brands aren't judged on what they say, but rather on what they do. Brands live and die not by their messaging, but by what people say about the experiences they have with a brand. Today we are judged on the reality of our brand interactions and how these interactions make someone feel, since these feelings are sharable and therefore visible to everyone .


Brand Marketing in a connected age has to inform more than just the communications narrative. It has to inform all brand/human interactions, digital or otherwise.  It has to inform the action and behaviors of employees, advocates, partners, content as well as inspire product and service innovation. For this complex branding environment 12 narrative archetypes simply no longer cuts it.  


That's when I started developing my own set of behavioral archetypes. I went back to basics.  I went back to the core of behavioral psychology, to basic human characteristics and personality types.  There were so many of them, from the earliest writings of Hippocrates (who grouped people by temperaments or 'humors') to the most recent models of brain science and neurological pathways. 


From Hippocrates and his core elements, I was taken down the path of Alchemy and divination, where these base elements were ascribed much meaning and symbolism. While the symbols and the science were fascinating, it was the observations and theories of how everything behaved and interacted, that was most valuable. Amazing frameworks for identifying and predicting sympathetic combinations of elements and resultant outcomes. I needed something that mirrored this creation of combinations, methodological interactions of simple core elements that resulted in infinitesimal behavioral outcomes.Through Culpepper, Kant, Adler, Fromm I found much alignment on the biological categorization of behaviors.  From Enneagram Types, through Jung Personality Types, to the California Psychology Inventory 260 and the career advisors favorite Holland Types I found patterns of alignment within behavioral psychology and social psychology.  Although they all used several different words, there was a very consistent and unifying core.  


Since symbols ascribed with meaning were an important part of the alchemists and diviners toolkit, I wanted to bring these two worlds together.  Simple geometric symbolism with hard-core psychological and behavioral meaning. 'Hearts', the drive of inner creativity, would be represented by an inward facing triangle. The circle, representing leadership and enterprise, references the power of the sun and the universal symbol of ambition: money - the Coin. Diamonds were symbolized by a forward facing arrow - symbolic of forward progress, pointing away from the earth and into the air.  This was a reference to the human quest for new, for discovery of treasure hidden or destinations previously unimagined. Shields became the symbol of protection, of nurturing, of caring and mothering.  Not weak, but strong and stabilizing. Spades grew out of the pentagram.  A hexagon, a sign of wisdom and practicality. Grounded in experience, with both feet rooted solidly in the earth, this is a symbol of precision and practicality -expertise and craft.  The last, but by no means least, was the symbol for social types. The flag felt like a new symbol for social identification and community support. I've sometimes referred to this as the public square, around which a community gathers or where collaborations occur.   


The first three 'suits' felt other-worldly, motivated by a vision of a world as it could be, a world to be invented, strived for or discovered. These three 'types' are motivated by something that is not yet here, not yet manifest. I called these the 'Divine suits'. The remaining three suits felt very grounded and drew their strength from what exists and how it could be made better.  These I called the 'Earthly suits".

Having established 6 core driving forces for human behavior, that had been consistent over the ages, I set out to create what I believed would be a comprehensive and meaningful spectrum of human, behavioral archetypes. This was done by a very simple process of combining primary and secondary characteristics. Each suit would have 6 individual archetypes with the same primary archetype but crossed with each of the other suits as a secondary, or latent influence. This ensured that the Nockwood deck would not be just random collections of archetypes but an equal balance of each different type. Each of these types have a descriptor and an action associated with that type to help illustrate the behavioral dynamic of that archetype. 


The full archetype listing can be seen on the home page of this site. 


I want to share this process and this thinking because a number of people have taken my archetypes very literally.  The name ascribed to each card is somewhat arbitrary. In different situations I can easily see how you might wish to change the word to fit the situation.  I will ultimately produce a list of alternative names for each archetype in case the descriptors I've chosen don't resonate equally with everyone.


However, what matters most is the conceptual framework of action oriented archetypes that have been systematically created from core drivers and motivators.  The Nockwood deck represents a full spectrum of different types and their simple symbolic representation is designed to provoke maximum projection and relativity.  The simplicity of this approach is what Alchemists believed stuck with people and inspired them for long periods of time.  I've reverted to verbal descriptions for simplicity and ease of use but the individual archetypes are not meant to be taken too literally.  It is the meaning of the symbols and the skill of interpretation that will make these cards a powerful strategic tool. For this reason, and this reason alone, I have been calling them Brand Tarot. They are not meant for fortune telling or prediction (that's what data science is there for!).

If you are interested in finding out more about how the Nockwood deck has been use for Brand Diagnosis and workshop use please check out the other pages of this 'Learn' section.  

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