As a brand designer with extensive knowledge of colour theory, I have always been fascinated by the myriad ways in which colour can influence human emotions and perceptions and I also know choosing colour for your brand can feel one of the trickiest elements.
Like most Designers, I do not work with the widely popular “Colour Seasons Theory” in my design work. Before I give you the reason to this and why you should also consider a different approach to choosing your brand colours, lets delve into the history of colour seasons and how they came about…
The colour seasons theory: A brief history
The Colour Seasons Theory, which categorises individuals into four distinct colour seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter – is a concept primarily associated with fashion and beauty. The theory suggests that each person has a dominant and a secondary colour season, and by wearing colours that harmonise with their season, they can enhance their appearance.
The origins of colour theory dates back to the 1700s. By 1980 psychologist Carole Jackson simplified the theory by combining personalities with seasons and this was predominately used for the cosmetics and fashion industry. This type of colour analysis become popular in the 1980s and again in the 2010s.
In the late 2010s, this colour practice then moved into branding which was predominately pioneered by the wonderful Brand Stylist, Fiona Humberstone.
Fiona’s colour seasons system allocate specific colours and palettes based on your brands personality traits. The system dictates, for example, if your brand personality is ‘graceful, elegant and organised’ your brand palette should be based around cool tones and muted colours.
Four reasons I choose to not work with the colour seasons theory
If you’re DIYing your identity, defining your brand colour by seasons is a great method as it can really help you narrow down all of the options and help relieve a little of the overwhelm when it comes to choosing brand colours. However, this theory was never intended for use in the field of design, and it has several limitations when applied to branding and graphic design.
Personality traits can often cross over different seasons. Some clients can also find it tricky to define their brand season when they associate different colours to a season.
Let me walk you through four key reasons why most Brand Designers don’t work to a colour seasons approach:
One: Over-Simplification of Colour
One of the primary reasons I don’t work with the Colour Seasons Theory is its oversimplified approach to colour. Categorising a brand into just four seasons can’t possibly capture the full range of unique and complex world of colour psychology. In branding, it’s essential to consider the individuality and complexity of each project’s target audience.
Two: Limited cultural and industry relevance
The Colour Seasons Theory does not account for the cultural and industry variations in colour preferences. Colours carry different meanings and cultural connotations around the world, and a universal approach to colour theory simply doesn’t hold up in a global context. Effective brand design takes into consideration the cultural nuances of the target market.
Three: Evolving design trends
Design trends are constantly evolving, and what was considered trendy or aesthetically pleasing in the past might not hold true today. Relying on a theory that was popularised in the mid-20th century can limit a designer’s ability to create contemporary and relevant design for brands.
Four: This is branding not personal style
The Colour Seasons Theory is fundamentally about personal style and appearance, which is distinct from brand identity. Whilst, for a big chunk of small businesses at least, it’s important the brand personality shines through, a brand’s colours should align with its values, mission, and target audience, rather than being dictated by the personal style of an individual or the favourite colour of the owner.
Brand designers focus on creating a unique visual language for each brand they work with, taking into consideration the brand’s message, market, and positioning.
To wrap up
While color theory is a fundamental part of brand design, it should be approached with a more nuanced and flexible perspective that goes beyond the simplistic categorization offered by the Color Seasons Theory. Ultimately, creating a brand’s identity is a complex and multifaceted task that requires a deep understanding of both the brand and the psychology of colour, rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all approach.
Colour is an area us Designers are obsessed with, lean into that knowledge and allows us to go a little deeper into how we choose your brand colours than simply picking a season. Your brand will thank you.
Ready to elevate your brand? From Wedding Planners to Skin Therapists to Wine Merchants, I’ve worked with every industry but it’s the small, independent business who I adore working with the most. If you’re looking for a Designer who thrives when working with small & micro businesses, I would love to hear from you!