Similarities and differences between Psychoanalysis and Brand Design

Both on the identity of a person as in the one of a company, organization or institution, the identity can be considered as the relationship that each entity maintains only with itself. If we follow this scheme, we can think that all of these identities are not products of nature but an act of self-assertion. That means they come from a natural phenomenon rather than from a mental one.

Under this framework, we can find a parallelism and a difference in the action of two disciplines that work with identities, such as psychoanalysis and brand design, the design of visual identities.

This parallelism is related to the act that both of them are reading underneath discourses and then, at the right time, they apply a surgical technique called punctuation. Nevertheless, their difference lies on the objective of this punctuation.

The psychoanalyst

The Psychoanalysis (analysis of the soul or mind), is among other things a method that reveals the way in which a person gives meaning to his or her world and the way such person imagines the reality.

In that way and for Lacan, the identity of a person is something evanescent that can not be located in one tangible and stony element. That is because for him, the identity is based on both absences and presences, in differences and similarities, the positive together with the negative of the person.

This relativity that Lacan asserts, explains why for instance a man seeks to hang on to something solid to close the sense of what he believes he is, of what he wants to be and of what he thinks others want him to be. So, to achieve such security is why each person constructs and clings to a story, his or her story. A story that decides what part of reality is the own one.

Therefore, and if that story does not give happiness enough, the analyst acts over the discourse the patient’s has taken as proper. The specialist then searches for the hidden essence of the identity, which is the way the patient see and be seen, the way that subjectivity has been structured.

However, subjectivity can be found when the person talks about his history and only for a while. It’s those unexpected moments when the repressions produced by conventions or social inhibitions fail to control the spontaneous expressions of the speaker.

Such attempts are lapses, jokes or the pretention to hide something. But these moments are comparables with a shell when is opened, where the soft flesh inside the subject is helpless, leaving feelings and imaginations of the person visible.

What does the analyst do then? He interrupts or repeats what was said, by cutting the patient’s speech, making a punctuation that stops the accelerated motion, linear, scattered or repeated line of the story, pausing thus the continuum of the person’s narration and creating an instant.

Why? Because the opening is the moment where the patient can recognise and visualize its inner tissue. That is because the compulsive usual address of the patient discourse was successfully cut, returning to him its message and allowing the subject to start seeing other things around, as its context or its way of thinking, as well as detecting the things of that story.

In other words, the punctuation makes a slit in the belly of what is said, allowing to free the new interpretations of the consciousness. Thus, the happy punctuation is the one which gives sense to the discourse of the subject and authorizes the person to reach new conclusions. These are conclusions that can help to process images that disturbed him and from there to start building a better image of himself, so as to anticipate a better future.

The Brand Designer

The branding (brand design) is among other things the visual representation of an entity, such as an institution, organization or company.

The identity of an entity is as evanescent as the one of an individual and accordingly there are no fixed points that can define it.

Such identity is based on three overlapping dimensions that can distance and get closer arbitrarily. These dimensions are: what the entity in question is, within quantifiable and measurable terms. What the entity wants to be: their hopes, dreams and expectations. Finally, aspects required by others: people as buyers, members or significant people for it.

This arbitrariness requires to the entity to have an anchor point for materialize and articulate its better moment. That is a point that set and structures strategically these dimensions, offering finally a solid identity and sense to the entity.

Otherwise, the body can be lost in the compulsive search for any particular dimension of its existence. For example, if the being just wants what people supposedly expected from, it may lose support and balance, exposing the entity in danger of collapse.

But that moment of strategic anchoring can only be displayed to each and every viewer if it can embody and attach  meaning to something recognizable. Something that can stop open interpretations about the identity of the entity, something as a mark or symbol. This happens because the brand cuts an image, one that makes us to see a key moment in the continuum of time. That is a moment running in a certain place and situation, where characters and objects dramatize an abstract or realistic scene. An scene that identify now the entity.

In practice and in face of the spectators, the brand image produces a fusion of the symbolic with the real and tangible entity in question. Mixing as in a melting pot what it is interpreted about both parties: the material value with the metaphorical one, the social utility of an organization with the social fantasies and desires awakened by the image. The happy result of this mixture is when the desired positioning of the entity is visible.

The similarity

As we have seen, a moment in the life of an identity is crystallized by the punctuation. Thus, on the one hand we may think that such moment can make a person or entity to rethink about their identity.

The difference

On the other hand, it can also be seen that the purpose, objective and underlying ideology between the two disciplines differ: the punctuation of the psychoanalyst seeks to not leave any mark, while the one of the designer, yes.

By using the punctuation, the analyst is trying therapeutically to release the identity, looking for helping the patient to find its way, even though freedom is not always a guarantee of happiness.

Conversely, the designer’s cut seeks to close the identity of the entity, in order to help to define, differentiate and hold it on to something tangible, visible and unique, according to a supposed interest. In this way, this cut is intentional: pretends that the identity is what it represents. At the same time, the designer is trying to dramatize scenes and stories by projecting a desired future for the beholders, in which the plot is based on the entity interest.

Is it wrong what designers do?

In defence of designers, we can find the need of society to cling to certainties. As an example we can see how parents are “designing” their newborn baby by means of choosing a certain name, or the need of every person to belong to a collective identity to define his or her identity.


We have seen that some of the working methods of both disciplines and resources are similar. However, we have also found that the ultimate goal of both is different, since one intends to open and the other to close the representation of the identity. However, we can conclude that both are necessary for the social life of identities.

©Sebastian Guerrini, 2011