Decoding the Visuals of Taylor Swift’s Album Eras

Published in
8 min readMar 27, 2023


Brand Insights in 3 Sentences: Brands can learn a thing or two from Taylor Swift’s success in crafting her image and brand building. She’s constantly reinventing herself, but always keeps her audience in mind as she creates every album, and tries to reach them wherever they are. Her efforts, attention to detail, and honesty with them matter, and she’s been able to build the trust with them that many other brands strive for.

Seeing as Taylor had been on the music scene since 2006, her sound has naturally evolved, and she’s churned out dozens of hits to celebrate, and that would thrill fans to hear again. She is arguably the most popular female artist of our time but is also one of the most self-aware and astute when it comes to crafting her persona and reinvention.

Each of Taylor’s studio albums has come packaged with its own aesthetic. Every single detail is carefully thought out, from the color schemes to the use of “easter eggs” in her lyrics, down to her everyday outfits. Fans have lapped it up, where it’s become almost a game with every song release to decode any secret messages or find clues of how it relates to her personal life.

Using Sphere’s Image Analysis tools, we break down each of her “eras” using her music videos, and how color, imagery, and mood-setting have helped cultivate them, and the brand-building lessons we can borrow from her playbook.


We begin our journey with 2017’s ‘Reputation’. Following her previous album’s 1989 World Tour, Taylor’s popularity was skyrocketing. There was rampant tabloid scrutiny of her personal life and her name was being brought into conversations about cultural issues like race and gender. She went into hiding during this time and emerged with Reputation, the antithesis of 1989. The album shed her good-girl image, and she was emerging angrier and more outspoken than ever.

Sphere found that the color palette during this era was dark, rich, and moody tones, and to match, she mostly wore black and edgier looks at events and on stage. The album was her attempt to shed her good girl image, so the content and imagery contained more partying and drinking, and sexual references. It was angry, yet sensual, but more importantly showed raw, unbridled emotions.

The top emotion detected in her music videos was fear, since most of them were filmed at night, or incorporated dark fantasy and dystopian elements. Snakes were also an important motif of this era, a reference to her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, where the latter had called her one. As a response, she put a slew of snakes into her music videos, social media, and tour visual and stage settings.

This era was probably her most different yet and remains one of the most iconic to fans. It even earned its spot as a slang term on social media, with Urban Dictionary defining it as “when a person has a comeback with vengeance and to mock those who have hurt them.”


Next up, was the ‘Lover’ era. This album was a “love letter to love”, and a bright, campy celebration of sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. This era was defined by dreamy pastel hues like bubblegum pink and lilacs, and bright pop colors to the soundtrack of synth-pop and upbeat riffs. Her outfits also matched the vibe, which saw her return to her girl-next-door roots and borrow from the aesthetics of disco and lolita subcultures.

Her music videos highlighted the joy, romance and magic of her songs, featuring flying umbrellas à la Merry Poppins in ‘ME!’ and dancing inside a snow globe in ‘Lover’.

All the colors and rainbows within the aesthetics wasn’t all for the sake of it though. ‘You Need to Calm Down’, one of the album’s singles, was a stance on LGBTQ+ rights. The song contained the line “Why are you mad, when you can be GLAAD?”, a shout out to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The accompanying video also featured some prominent queer celebrities, even a drag queen dressed as Taylor herself, and ended with a direct plea for viewers to sign a petition in support of the Equality Act. This was the first time she was being vocal about her personal and political beliefs, and fans applauded her for it.

Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’

Instead of going on tour for ‘Lover’, Taylor found herself in the Covid-19 lockdowns like the rest of the world. It was then that she conceptualized two albums, ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’. They were dubbed as sister albums, and had very similar musical styles, themes and aesthetics.

She took inspiration from the loneliness of being isolated, and explored themes of escapism, nostalgia and romanticism by crafting stories of fictional characters and narratives. Songs like The Last Great American Dynasty’ told a tale of the “madwoman” Rebekah who owned a mansion by the sea in Rhode Island, and a love triangle told through three different perspectives in Cardigan’, ‘Betty”’and ‘August.’

‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ mainly consist of soft, atmospheric ballads, reminiscent of indie folk or alternative rock genres, and were made to evoke the comfort and peacefulness of the fall and winter seasons. Her vibe during this time saw her wearing her hair in loose curls and traipsing through the forest in gingham checks, lace and polo tees, which borrowed elements from the bloomcore, prairiecore and autumn aesthetics.

Her album art and videos were also mostly shot out in nature and layered with misty or sepia filters, so the top objects detected were ‘cloud’, ‘plant’ and ‘sky’, and brown, beige and light shades of gray appeared as the top colors found.


Then, we come to her ‘Midnights’ album, which claimed all top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in a single week. This collection of songs saw Taylor’s return to a diaristic style, where she reflects on her “sleepless nights” and the anxiety, self-criticism, and self-awareness that creeps into the sound of synth pop and dreamy pop.

Using color in her storytelling is a key feature of Taylor’s music, with purple and blue being used to bring out the dreamlike feel of the songs. She announced the new album in a midnight blue dress, and ice blue was featured on the cover art. Purple was also found in many of her music and lyric videos, and she even named two songs after shades of the color: Lavender Haze and Maroon.

Taylor’s style during this era transitions from an autumnal color palette into a shimmery, celestial glam. She takes inspiration from the fashion of the 70s, clothing herself in polos and cozy knits, then channeling retro glam in fur stoles, diamond jewelry and bedazzled lingerie. We also see her experimenting with ghostcore and cloudcore, which helps to create the ethereal world around this album.

So, what marketing lessons can we learn from the Taylor Swift brand?

  • Care! — It’s evident that Taylor has put an enormous amount of effort into building her brand and has impeccable attention to detail, from the album colors to the way her music is released. She’s protective of her brand, so she’s had a hand in absolutely everything to do with it. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by fans, as they know that they are getting ‘Taylor’ with every album, ticket or memorabilia they buy.
  • Audience comes first — Every easter eggs, cryptic message and hidden details are meant for her fans, and she’s always on the lookout for them on social media (check out #taylurking). She’s also meeting them where they are, through Twitter, Instagram and most recently, TikTok. This reaffirms to Taylor’s fans that her decisions about her music are as much for her as they are for the fans.
  • Queen of the revamp — As Taylor has grown and trends have come and gone, she’s innovated and rebranded herself with every era. At her core, however, Taylor hasn’t compromised on her identity. She remains the same, but just different in how she presents herself to the world. Brands should take note not to fall in the trend trap and to remember who they are and what values they hold.
  • Embrace your reputation — In her almost two decades long career, Taylor has naturally made some public mistakes and mishaps. Instead of avoiding the elephant in the room, she’s embraced them, apologized and used them as fuel for her creativity. This transparency has brought her closer to her audience and developed a sense of trust that all brands strive for.

Follow our page for more such insights. Write to to learn about AI-powered market research and the latest consumer trends.




We are a culturally rooted, AI powered insights firm that converts millions of data signals into human understanding. Visit us: