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The basics of color psychology and seasonal color theory

Date Published:

Jul 28, 2021

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When referencing color psychology and Seasonal Brand Theory in your branding, you’re utilizing the power of color to help evoke a specific brand experience.


Choosing a color palette for your brand can be one of the most challenging parts of the branding process. Especially when there seems to be so much inspiration around every digital corner.

Luckily, there’s a way to make it easier (and more fun!)

What I’ve found helpful (for both my clients and myself) is to understand the reasoning behind a color selection. Rather than just picking something because it looks good, when you’re able to select a color for a specific reason and purpose, it tends to increase the longevity of the entire palette. Just like every other visual element in the branding process, when you create something with rhyme and reason—not only will your visual brand look (and feel) good but it will also align with the big picture, the entire brand experience.

So how do you make your brand color decisions with intentionality? By first understanding the meaning behind the colors and how they play into the overall brand strategy and identity.

Enter: Color Psychology and Seasonal Brand Theory.

This post walks through how they each contribute to creating a color palette for your brand that accurately reflects the type of experience you’re wanting to create.

In This Article

>> A quick history of color psychology and seasonal theory
>> What is color psychology?
>> What is Seasonal Brand Theory?
>> Why is color important in branding?
>> What do colors mean in branding?
>> How do you choose the right color palette for your brand?


A quick history on color psychology and seasonal theory

A German philosopher named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) realized there was a connection between colors, and the seed of color psychology was planted.

Then, in the early 1900s, a painter and professor named Johannes Itten created four different color palettes that corresponded with the four seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) in order to make it easier to teach his students how to use color while painting.

Shortly thereafter, a woman named Suzanne Caygill (1911–1924) combined Itten’s ‘seasonal theory’ with Goethe’s ‘color psychology’ and created her own theory that asserted humans carry information about their personality and style in their natural coloration.

Fast forward to the 1980s and psychologist Carole Jackson wrote the book Color Me Beautiful in which she simplified Caygill’s seasonal system, reducing it to one personality per color season.

Jackson’s seasonal personality theory was used to mainly help people shop for appropriate clothes, accessories, and makeup by helping readers determine if they were a warm or cool type and a light or dark type.


What is color psychology?

Color psychology is the idea that each specific color is linked to a certain meaning. From a marketing perspective, colors can be used to evoke a certain feeling towards the brand or product.


What is seasonal brand theory?

I first stumbled upon the idea of seasonal brand theory when I was listening to a podcast featuring The Brand Stylist, Fiona Humberstone. She was talking about color psychology and then shared an idea that all brands have a season, and that season has a corresponding color palette. Thankfully, the podcast host asked her to dig a little deeper into this idea and before I knew it, I was feverishly researching all I could about Fiona and her work around color psychology and seasonal color theory. I immediately purchased her two books (How to Style Your Brand and Brand Brilliance) and I refer to both on a regular basis when working with my own brand clients.

The basic idea of Seasonal Brand Theory is this: Every brand identifies with a particular season and that season has unique characteristics. From the words on a website to the photography styling to the color palette, each season has a set of guidelines that embody and evoke emotions based on color psychology and seasonal theory.

Now, with that being said, there aren’t hard and fast rules for each season. Think of them more as erasable boundary lines to help you stay on track.


Why is color important in branding?

Because of the principles of color psychology, your brand’s color palette has the power to evoke certain feelings and actions, especially when they are aligned with the rest of your brand’s identity and strategy.

Every brand touch point, or every time someone comes in contact with your brand, they will think, feel and act a certain way. That’s the power of branding – when you are intentional about your brand, both the strategy and identity, you can influence how that person thinks, feels and acts.

Color plays such a significant part of your overall brand experience because they’re used in every single visual piece created on behalf of your brand. Whether you’re sharing a graphic on social media or writing an email, your brand colors will be part of that creative piece.

Which brings us back to what I said at the beginning of this blog post: when you create something with rhyme and reason—not only will your visual brand look (and feel) good but it will also align with the big picture, the entire brand experience.


What do colors mean in branding?

There are thousands of resources on the meaning of each color (I’ve linked some of my favorites below), but here are the basics:

Red: Energy, danger, strength, power

Orange: Joy, encouragement, happiness

Yellow: Energy, cheerfulness, loyalty

Blue: Authentic, compassionate, enthusiastic

Green: Growth, harmony, freshness

Pink: Gentle, calming, tender

Purple: Royalty, luxury, wisdom

White: Light, innocence, purity

Black: Authority, elegance, mystery

Using color psychology as the foundation, the basics then for Seasonal Brand Theory are:

Spring season: Think bright, cheerful, and friendly. Just like spring, your brand is bursting with energy. [[click here to read more about the Spring Brand]]

Summer season: Think lazy days of summer. Muted colors and a relaxed vibe. [[click here to read more about the Summer Brand]]

Fall season: Think organic and grounded. Colors are warm with a little desaturation, like the changing colors of the leaves. [[click here to read more about the Fall Brand]]

Winter season: Think stark contrast and extremes. Colors are bold with cool undertones. [[click here to read more about the Winter Brand]]


How do you choose the right color palette for your brand?

This is when strategy comes into the play.

The first step is to determine how you want someone to think and feel when they experience your brand. Based on those adjectives, you can determine what Brand Season you’re most aligned with and use that as a starting point for picking your brand colors.

Want even more support? Check out this step-by-step post walking you through the process of choosing your brand’s color palette.


A few closing thoughts

Understanding color psychology and seasonal brand theory can be as simple or complex as you’d like. If you’re already feeling a bit overwhelmed, just remember that these are only tools to help you create a more succinct visual brand that connects with your ideal audience.

All my best,


Additional Resources





Brand Brilliance by Fiona Humberstone

How to Style your Brand by Fiona Humberstone

Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson

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