Seasonal brand theory is a framework for brand personality creation. Learn the basics of brand seasons and color theory, as well as and how to effectively use them in your own brand to fuel connection and create consistency.
When I first started learning about brand and branding, the question of ‘how’ always came bubbling up to the top.
“But how did they create such a beautiful brand?”
“But how does the brand feel so effortless?”
“But how does everything seem to look so cohesive, like it was meant to go together?”
And then I stumbled upon a podcast episode featuring Fiona Humberstone and the ‘how’ started to take shape.
She talked about how every brand identified with a certain season and that season had a specific set of guidelines based on its desired experience. She used this concept in her own branding agency when working with clients and talked about how it was so easy to implement because it gave clients an understanding of their decisions. It became a common language she could use with both her employees and the brands they worked with.
As soon as I finished the podcast episode, I jumped online and purchased her two books, her Colour for Creatives course and downloaded all her free content. I read up on seasonal psychology and color psychology, taking in all the knowledge.
And then I started implementing these ideas with my client work and seven years later, seasonal brand theory is still a staple in my client process.
Which brings me to today – we’re doing a deep dive into all that is brand seasons and seasonal brand theory; not only characteristics and traits of each season, but also guidelines on how to effectively implement said characteristics and traits into your own brand.
Table of Contents
What is seasonal brand theory?
The idea is that 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.
These two concepts were then blended together by Carole Jackson, to help people understand what colors to wear, type of makeup to use, etc. and was then transferred to the branding space by Fiona Humberstone.
Brand seasons, color theory and color psychology
We know (through color psychology) that a brand’s use of color has the power to evoke certain feelings, emotions and behaviors.
And in today’s digital-heavy business landscape, color is present in every digital collateral piece created. Whether you’re sharing a graphic on social media or writing an email, your brand colors will play a part in the design. Which brings us back to the why – when you select your colors with intention, they support the desired perception that you’re trying to create for your brand.
Seasonal brand theory is a tool that you can leverage to help choose colors (and other brand elements like fonts, graphics and photography) that enhance that desired perception. So instead of arbitrarily picking a color palette because you found in on Pinterest and you like it, you first determine your brand season and then choose colors that align with that season.
How do you pick the right season?
In a perfect world, you’d go through the entire brand strategy process and use that as clues to picking your right brand season.
When I work with clients, the last of the five workshops covers the brand’s personality and this is where we dig into their brand season. Because we’ve done a lot of work on the other elements of their brand strategy (core identity, sales strategy, positioning, messaging) we have a ton of information to draw from. So, I can’t not say it: if you’re really wanting to dig into your brand and create something that’s aligned and supportive, bringing in a brand professional will be the most helpful.
That being said, here are a few questions that you can walk through to self-select your brand’s season:
- What 10 adjectives describe how your brand will be visually represented?
- What 10 adjectives describe the brand voice and communication style of your brand?
- What 10 adjectives describe the overall experience you want people to have with your brand?
From there, compare those 30 adjectives against the brand season keywords (listed below). The season with the most aligned keywords is your primary brand season and the season with the second to most is your secondary brand season.
What do you do with your brand season once you’ve decided?
The goal is that when you utilize the guidelines of your most-aligned brand season, you enhance your brand’s personality. And because seasonal brand theory is rooted in color psychology and seasonal theory, they have purpose and intent behind them. I.e., Rather than picking a color palette just because it looks good, you end up making a decision with intention – and I believe, that’s the how in creating a strong brand.
There are two ways that I use brand seasons for my own business and when I’m working with clients:
- To help guide brand identity and graphic design decisions
- To help create the brand’s personality
For brand identity and graphic design
What I love about seasonal brand theory is how much visuals come into play. Each season has guidelines around colors, typography, graphics and photography. Because of this, it’s a great resource for making design decisions. Before getting started on an brand or graphic design project, first understand what brand seasons are present and then use that season’s characteristics to make design decisions.
For brand personality development
I like to think of seasonal brand theory as a framework to help define your brand’s personality. Based on your brand season, you can create personality elements like voice, engagement style and communication style.
Read more about creating a remarkable brand personality here.
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Meet the spring brand season
The spring brand personality is fun, energetic and friendly. As with nature, it’s full of possibility, bright colors and bursts of energy.
Spring brands embrace who they are, explore their creativity and lean into whatever is inspiring to them. They light up the room (digital or in-person) and people are naturally drawn to their charisma and energy. They aren’t positioning themselves above anyone else, but rather, celebrate community and revel in bringing people together.
You may most align with the spring brand if your desired brand experience is: Fun, energetic, playful, approachable, inspirational, friendly, caring, creative, simple, transparent, youthful
Spring personality pendulum: More community, less of a recluse or lover; more friendliness, less exclusivity or restriction; more laid back, less assertive; more loud and boisterous, less delicate and quaint.
Voice and communication style
The voice of a spring personality embodies friendliness and playfulness. They communicate in a way that is inspirational, yet also approachable. This means not using jargon that’s too ‘insider-knowledge’ and having a more conversational style. The copy is fun, bubbly and exuberant. They’re known to add in a little embellishment and color to their communication to make it more lively and dynamic.
Spring personality pendulum: The voice is more relaxed, less assertive; more calm and casual, less edgy and serious; more fun and playful, less reserved and dainty.
Spring personality colors are bright, bold and full of warmth. Think high saturation and yellow undertones. The goal in using spring colors is to enhance the friendliness and playfulness that spring brands are known for.
Spring personality pendulum: Colors are more warm and yellow undertones, less cool and blue undertones; more saturated and bright, less muted and pastel.
Spring typography is light, approachable, sweet and fun. As you can see in the examples below, the font weight (how bold it is) is on the lower side, so think about utilizing thin/light/regular font weights. The script fonts are frilly, loopy and sweet-looking. Think fonts in the sans serif and friendly script family.
Spring personality pendulum: Typography is more light and playful, less strong and heavy; more bouncy, less structure; more sans serif and playful, less serif and elegant.
Graphics and textures
Pulling on this thread of fun and liveliness, it will come as no surprise that spring patterns are whimsical and lively. They’re imperfect and fun, and filled with movement. Graphics are circular, distinct and light hearted. Textures are busy, creative and cheerful.
In the examples below, you can see there isn’t too much structure or order to the patterns and graphics. Lines are imperfect, placement leans more towards disorganization and there are multiple colors being featured.
Spring personality pendulum: Graphics and patterns are more playful and less filled with order; more chaotic and less minimal; more haphazard and less clean and polished.
Spring photos are bright and airy with the feeling of movement. They’re full of life, light and play on creativity. Busy patterns and natural elements are great styling additions.
Spring personality pendulum: Photos are more busy than structured and organized; less clean and minimal, and more cluttered and creative; more fun and chaotic, and less polished and refined.
Meet the summer brand season
The summer brand is refined, aspirational and elegant. They’re focused on detail and organization.
Summer brands focus on quality and have a commitment to luxury and style. They appreciate creative problem solving and leave no stone left unturned. Detail is of the utmost importance and they tend to have a strong sense of responsibility. They are more reserved and tend to hold back their thoughts, unless directly asked.
You may most align with the summer brand if your desired brand experience is: Elegant, refined, high quality, balance, calm, serious, supportive, responsible, delicate, simple, romantic
Summer personality pendulum: More organized and efficient, less chaos; more structure and professionalism, less whimsy and casual; more delicate and quaint, less loud and exuberant.
Voice and communication style
The voice of a summer personality is measured, formal and polished.They communicate in a way that is more on the serious side, is free from spelling errors and always grammatically correct. This means using high quality language and speaking more intricately. The copy is detailed, controlled and graceful. They’re known for being sensible, mature and neat.
Summer personality pendulum: The voice is more careful and classic, less casual and energetic; more precise and deliberate, less edgy and serious; more reserved and aspirational, less fun and playful.
Summer personality colors are cool, muted and elegant. Think low saturation and blue undertones. The goal in using summer colors is to enhance the elegance and high quality that summer brands are known for.
Summer personality pendulum: Colors are more cool with blue undertones, less warm with yellow undertones; more muted and pastel, less saturated and bright; more tint and light, less shade and dark.
Summer typography is elegant, delicate and refined. As you can see in the examples below, the font weight (how bold it is) is low, so think font weight as thin, light or regular. The script fonts are intricate, elegant and romantic-looking. Think serif and elegant script fonts.
Summer personality pendulum: Typography is more detailed and delicate, less strong and heavy; more structured and intricate, less bouncy and bubbly; more serif and elegant script, less sans serif and playful script.
Graphics and textures
Continuing on with this thread of elegance, it will come as no surprise that summer patterns are delicate, organized and graceful. They’re detailed with a timeless aesthetic. Graphics are classic and luxurious. Textures are high quality and clean.
In the examples below, you can see there is a plethora of detail and intricateness. Lines are precise and refined. Placement is organized and intentional. There isn’t a lot of business, but rather beautiful precision.
Summer personality pendulum: Graphics and patterns are more organized and detailed, less chaotic and haphazard; more clean and polished, less playful and busy; more intricate and refined, less bold and funky.
Summer photos are all about quality and elegance. They’re calming, soft and have an air of stillness. Organization, structure and clean lines are core principles of the photo’s composition. Beautiful florals, vintage vases and luxurious linens are great styling additions.
Summer personality pendulum: Photos are more structured and organized, less busy and cluttered; more creative and elegant, less bold and contemporary; more polished and formal, less playful and informal.
Meet the fall brand season
The fall brand is full of integrity and authenticity. They revel in knowledge and education, love the past and often lean into feelings of nostalgia.
Fall brands love to challenge the established norms and do things differently. They have a strong sense of justice and a strong work ethic. They’re lifelong learners, strive for personal achievement and keep family and friends at the heart of their purpose.
You may most align with the fall brand if your desired brand experience is: Friendly, warm, passionate, authentic, simple, comfortable, cozy, welcoming, ambitious, organic, earthy, natural
Fall personality pendulum: More authentic and warm, less serious and dramatic; more casual and organic, less aspirational and elegant; more substantial, less delicate.
Voice and communication style
The voice of a fall personality is warm, friendly and approachable. They communicate in a way that isn’t too concerned with staying within the status quo, but because of their desire for knowledge, they still come across as intelligent and creative. This looks like using a conversational style with detailed language.
Fall personality pendulum: The voice is more friendly and approachable, less precise and deliberate; more enthusiastic and passionate, less edgy and serious; more comfortable and warm, less reserved and decisive.
Fall personality colors are warm and moody. Think mid-level saturation and yellow undertones. The goal in using fall colors is to enhance the earthy, grounded and cozy feeling that fall brands are known for.
Fall personality pendulum: Colors are more warm with yellow undertones, less cool with blue undertones; more dark and moody, less light and bright; more grounded and wholesome, less pasted and muted.
Fall typography is substantial, casual and a little vintage. As you can see in the examples below, the font weight (how bold it is) is medium to chunk, so think heavy, bold or semi-bold. The script fonts are chunky and approachable. Overall, gravitate towards strong and grounded type.
Fall personality pendulum: Typography is more strong and heavy, less detailed and delicate; more substantial and retro, less modern and minimal; more casual and approachable, less sharp and contemporary.
Graphics and textures
Continuing on with this thread of substantial and approachable, patterns are informal, chunky and rich. Graphics are hand drawn and imperfect, not precise. Textures are natural and organic.
In the examples below, you can see the imperfections, approachability and casual nature of the graphics. Placement is informal and organic, rather than exact and structured.
Fall personality pendulum: Graphics and patterns are more informal and casual, less detailed and organized; more substantial and chunky, less delicate and refined; more illustrative and natural, less modern and minimal.
Fall photos are all about organic warmth. They’re imperfect, natural and cozy. Natural elements and textures are used to accentuate warmth, add substance and depth. They’re rich and thought provoking.
Fall personality pendulum: Photos are more organic and natural, less structured and organized; more dark and moody, less light and bright; more cozy and warm, less minimal and stark.
Meet the winter brand season
The winter brand is highly driven and decisive, with a love for drama. They’re self-assured and uncompromising which can lead to an intense, yet distinctive personality.
Everything is about extremes and contrast, which makes them great at seeing the big picture and also honing in on the details. They’re the epitome of the ‘go big or go home’ statement because they go to the extreme end of what their brand stands for. Precision and achievement are also important to the winter brand, which helps project strength and confidence.
You may most align with the winter brand if your desired brand experience is: Strong, objective, straightforward, driven, focused, decisive, luxurious, glamorous, determined, captivating, lavish
Winter personality pendulum: More dramatic and extreme, less refined and calm; more big and bold, less delicate and refined; more confident and self assured, less apprehensive and unsure; more precise and detailed, less bubbly and casual.
Voice and communication style
The voice of a winter personality is confident, dramatic and distinct. They communicate in a way that is straightforward and to the point. This means not sugarcoating their thoughts, not being afraid to tell it like it is and communicating from a place of expertise and vision. They use language with intention and their copy is detailed, controlled and strong.
Winter personality pendulum: The voice is more confident and straightforward, less careful and held back; more edgy and distinct, less measured and reserved; more detailed and dramatic, less playful and casual.
Winter personality colors are cool, strong and clear. Think high saturation with blue undertones. The goal in using winter colors is to enhance the confident and dramatic persona that winter brands are known for.
Winter personality pendulum:Colors are more cool with blue undertones, less warm with yellow undertones; more saturated and bright, less muted and pastel; more shade, less tint.
Winter typography is all about the extremes. As you can see in the examples below, high contrast type within each letter and very thin or thick weight (how bold it is) are great options. The goal here is to project confidence, so choosing a type that commands attention is the goal.
Winter personality pendulum: Typography is bold and dramatic, less delicate and quaint; extreme and distinctive, less elegant and bubbly; more definitive and strong, less playful and casual.
Graphics and textures
Continuing on with this idea of distinct drama, it will come as no surprise that winter graphics are clean and minimal with hard lines and strong, geometric shapes. The patterns are statement-making and can swing on either side of the pendulum – intricate and detailed or minimal and no-fuss. The goal is contrast and extremes. Textures are luxurious, opulent and clean.
In the examples below, you can see the distinct, strong lines and geometric shapes. This is about sharp edges, bold use of color and lines and distinctive placement.
Winter personality pendulum: Graphics and patterns are more sharp and distinctive, less chaotic and haphazard; more dramatic and extreme, less playful and busy; more bold and geometric, less refined and bubbly.
Winter photos are all about high contrast and clean lines. They’re dramatic with sharp, strong lines and distinctive prop placement. Luxurious marble or bold pops of color against a plain white or black background are great styling additions.
Winter personality pendulum: Photos are more structured and organized, less busy and cluttered; more bold and dramatic, less elegant and quaint; more sharp lines and drama, less playful and informal.
FAQs for brand seasons and seasonal color theory
What if I’m a spring but I want my brand to be winter? Can they be different? Do they have to be the same?
Your brand’s season is about how you want your brand to be experienced. It’s not necessarily how YOU feel as a human but rather, how you want your brand to be perceived and experienced by others.
What if I really align with a spring brand but I fell in love with a winter color palette?
This isn’t an all-or-nothing perspective. Implementing your aligned brand season is not about checking all the boxes to ensure your brand aligns perfectly with the outlined traits and recommendations. But rather, viewing the seasonal traits as more of guidelines that you can utilize as a starting point and/or baseline for your brand strategy and identity.
All my best,
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