Tarot, Symbols and Graphic Design: A Visual Art Exercise – Part I

Warning: This post has no spiritual content!

There ain’t no such thing as time. Sooner or later you will learn this lesson.

In June 2010, during a specialization in Design Management at UFSC, one of the most amazing and enigmatic (at that time at least) classes was the subject called Psychology and Applied Creativity, whose teacher was Francisco Fialho, a lovely guy in such a Latino* performance at the lecture.
Typologies, character and archetypes were some of the subjects that we worked out in his classes. The references couldn’t be better: Michel Maffesoli, Donald Norman and plenty of Carl Jung.

I bet every each student at that class can still remember of the unique look and feel of his slideshow.

His approach on the Creativity as subject started with the archetype of the inner child as an important matter, then he brought us into a journey plenty of symbols from different cultures related at some stage to our own culture. I would say it was quite complex to get. Despite I’ve never asked my colleagues I just wonder if they fully understood what he was talking about.

“Only when I give voice to my inner child I feel myself genuine and creative” Alice Miller extracted from lecture slides

Well, I couldn’t get him 5 years ago. I knew what Venus, Mars, Dionysus and Orixas meant to be but make a connection between these and the real life was a bit too much for me.

Now, what is the relation between the enigmatic world of symbols and design?

“Art is like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images to achieve changes in consciousness.” Alan Moore

If you are a designer you probably have been working quite a lot with mood boards, haven’t you? Mood-boarding is a technique used by creatives to show their visual interpretation of what the client is aiming for a particular project or concept, it’s a collage of images, text, fonts, shapes, colours, icons offering visual direction.

Set up concept is the core of a project. Once you define three words that translate the meaning of a brand or a product you will have a clear image on your mind, then you start drawing how it is going to look like.

Have a look at the work done by Kaye Putnam bellow. It is all about images, words and ideas behind a brand.


That is one of many examples about why we must be visually literate.

So, after the Fialho’s lecture and all the amount of images and symbols I have to deal with over 12 years working  as a graphic designer, I’ve a suggestion for all the younger designers: Exercise your eyes!

“Educate ourselves iconographically is soaking in your own culture”. Leo Chioda

Ready to get hands dirty? I’ve been into the tarot matter for some years but few days ago I started my own journey through the tarot cards. I am using The Mythic Tarot Workbook as a guide and two tarot decks: Rider-Waite and Marsella.

The Mythic Tarot Workbook

Let me show you a small bite of the author’s introduction:

“The layout of the first twenty-two pages of the Workbook shows The Mythic Tarot card on the left hand page and an enlarged black-and-white outline on the opposite page. Colouring these black-and-white images can help to stimulate and increase latent powers of intuition. Fantasy and imagination are the means to stimulating the intuitive powers which are present in all of us but which lie deep in the unconscious mind. An effective way to unleashing this dormant creative potential is to release the ‘child’ part of ourselves and let the imagination flow. Children are not shackled by inhibitions and can let their feelings flow unchecked. Their painting, drawing and colouring games help to develop their imagination”. Sharman-Burke, Juliet

That is exactly how my class started back 2010 in the Fialho’s lecture. Nothing has changed! The world of symbols and meanings is waiting for our journey.



*Latino performance at the lecture: A very passionate way to teach.


Want to go further on the Archetypes and Branding? Have a look at this book The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes

To understand more about the Jung’s journey through the tarot cards: Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey

Easy peasy! An introduction to archetypes for brands: Defining your company’s archetype

Start the journey through the tarot cards: The Mythic Tarot Workbook

Do you read Portuguese? Cafe Tarot (by Lee Chioda) has the most interesting thoughts related to the tarot and culture I’ve ever seen.

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