You and I can have the most helpful, creative, incredible business in the world, but if we sink into the abyss of looking and sounding like everyone else, no one will know we will exist, we won’t connect with the right customers and we will work especially hard and eventually, completely wear ourselves out.
That’s so not fun.
There is another alternative and that alternative is designing a stylish brand reflecting what your business is and using the right colors to connect with your best clients. The right brand makes business more fun, it makes us more confident and it attracts our favorite clients to us.
In this blog post, my goal is to give a sweeping overview of the seasonal approach to design and color styling so you can have a stronger idea of how the right colors in your brand can make you distinctive.
An archetype, by definition, is a prototype or example of something else. So when I use the spring archetype for an art piece, like in this blog post, I’m using a set of colors and patterns that the spring season represents. The word archetype comes from psychology, but it is used in a lot of contexts today.
Many artists and colorists began to observe the distinctions of the seasons, not only in color, but in pattern and temperament. There are distinct behaviors and patterns that occur in the seasons that we not only relate to, but look forward too: the lush and light colors of spring that bounce, the subdued and relaxed mood of summer calling to us to relax, the rich and abundant display of autumn and the start and dramatic mood of winter. Each season has a specific palette, mood and design all its own.
The Breakdown of the Seasons
The seasons can apply, not only to color schemes, but personalities and styling. Is there a season you relate the most to, both in the color, mood and feeling? That may be your dominant season personality.
For brevity’s sake, I’ll stick to the attributes of the seasons here in relation to visual cues and feelings, and not enter into how the seasonal archetypes are played out in personalities, career choices, etc.
The colors of the seasons are all the same base colors (in a sense) for the most part, with a different color added to them. I hope to be able to explain as we go along.
Spring is the season of life, energy and light. Light infuses everything in spring. The underlying feeling of spring is warm and light.
Spring colors are vibrant and crisp. On the color wheel they are the most primary colors: yellow, red, a tangerine orange, bright pink, bright yellow, a fresh green. Think of the colors of the rainbow when thinking of colors of spring.
The colors of spring feel happy, warm and light and so do the patterns that go with them. Spring is not heavy or somber or even very serious. Spring is jumping and playful, it is spontaneous, engaging and gregarious. Spring beckons us to put down our work and play for a while, to pack up the wicker picnic basket, red and white checkered table cloth (does anyone still have these), sandwiches and iced tea and hit the road with a group of friends or family.
There is no black or gray in the spring palette and the undertones are all warm.
Think of children laughing or the spontaneous friend who’ll drop anything to go somewhere with you, laughing the whole way. That’s spring: engaging, warm, friendly and inviting.
If spring is warm and light, then summer is cool and light. In the summer time, the vivaciousness of spring settles down into a more subdued sophistication. Summer is serious and elegant; it still may be fun, but there is an attention to detail that spring does not have. In spring there is life everywhere and in summer the seasons settles down to focus.
In California where I live, the summer still has colors but the intense sun has faded the vividness of the colors, leaving a lot of mellow yellows, blush pinks, cornflower blue and lavender. The colors of summer have gray added to them. You could take the spring palette, add gray and develop a summer palette. The bright pink would become a soft blushing pink, the crisp lemon yellow would fade into a soft yellow, etc. All the colors become softer, more refined.
Summer is lovely and elegant, it doesn’t scream for attention, but it’s under-statedness is part of its appeal. Interesting though, summer has an attention to detail and organization that can be missed.
Wedding planners and photographers often use a summer archetype in their branding for their business. The colors are often the soft pastels accented by a charcoal gray, a navy blue or a cool turquoise. When you consider the work of wedding planners and photographers, they make things appear beautiful, effortless and elegant, but the work involved is unbelievable!
While spring is bouncy in patterns and playful in their movement, summer is going to be relaxed, smooth, elegant. Think gorgeous script or an elegant font.
Autumn is abundant, rich, and taps into our feeling of home, tradition and good-old-fashioned-solidness. The feeling of autumn is warm and heavy. When I say heavy, there is a weight to the colors, textures, fonts and patterns of autumn. Nothing is blowing away, there is a weight to autumn. It’s not a burdensome heaviness, but the reliable weight of tradition, the harvest, Thanksgiving and football (if you’re in the states). Even the autumn garden is full of heavy produce: squash, pumpkins, apples and pears.
Colors, moods and the temperament of the winter season are strong and dramatic. The colors of winter in the outdoors are start: the white snow covering the landscape of the colder climates and the rainy, gray skies of the less cold ones. The multitude of colors diminish and those that remain are very strong. Consider the evergreen trees or the all-natural wreath at Christmas time: all green except for the bright color of the red berries or the poinsettias.
The shapes of winter are edgy and strong, opposite of the playful circles and swirls of spring. Interesting enough in the nature palette as described by renowned color psychologists Susan Caygill and Angela Wright, only in the winter season is there a predominance of both black and white.
The theme of winter is cool and strong. From a painter’s perspective, if I’m creating a winter palette I’m going to be adding black or Payne’s gray to my colors, creating bright fuschia’s, cool greens and blues, blue-red’s, etc. along with the black and whites. Everything is cold in the winter palette, it is cold as spring is warm. There is nothing lukewarm about winter colors.
The personality of winter is decisive and strong, authoritarian. Think luxe brands such as Prada or Tiffany’s, powerful law firms, modern art museums, old Hollywood stars wrapped in fur and mystery, and Vogue magazine.
People who reflect a strong winter personalities are strong and decisive. They’re the trendsetters and the ones who march to the beat of their own drums regardless of what others think. They are the leaders who are born, not made and don’t mind being the center of attention, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily loud or obnoxious. The winter personality is the brand or person who everyone is aware of just because they enter in the room.
Do This First
As Fiona Humberstone points out in her incredible book, How to Style Your Brand, it’s essential to figure out what values the business is about first, then get on to figuring out what season best reflects them. Once this is understood, it makes the fun of figuring out colors, pattern and design a whole lot more fun.
I highly recommend Fiona’s book if you are the DIY kind of person. She gives amazing instructions for how to figure out the foundation of your brand. It does take some effort, but every ounce of energy you invest in building a strong, beautiful brand is worth it. I don’t receive anything for recommending Fiona’s book. It’s the best book I’ve found on the subject and I tell everyone about it who is interested on the subject of brand styling.
What About You?
The intriguing thing about the seasons is they reflect not only a color scheme, but a feeling behind the scheme. It’s not just about colors, but about the feelings and underlying sense of identity underneath them.
When you know what you’re trying to communicate through your art work, your website, or even your personal wardrobe, you can use the seasonal archetypes to look cohesive, but attract the best people for what you’re offering.
In reality, each person is an individual, a composite of the seasons with one standing out strong. In your business or brand, you may envelope a bit of a few seasons, but for your brand to speak strongly, it’s essential for the dominant season to shine forth in the colors, fonts and feel of the brand.
In future blog posts, we’ll explore brands that show reflect a strong seasonal archetype.
In the meantime, what can you do to strengthen your brand? Are you using too many clashing warm and cool colors that don’t harmonize? Do you have soft coloring of summer but the hard edges of winter that come across as a bit jarring (or too subtle?)
What season does your brand resemble and do your customers feel that you get them simply by reading through your blog or attending a workshop? Do you think you’re reflecting that in your current design?
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