All-optical switching—controlling light with light—has the potential to meet the ever-increasing demand for data transmission bandwidth. The development of organic π-conjugated molecular materials with the requisite properties for all-optical switching applications has long proven to be a significant challenge. However, recent advances demonstrate that polymethine dyes have the potential to meet the necessary requirements. In this review, we explore the theoretical underpinnings that guide the design of π-conjugated materials for all-optical switching applications. We underline, from a computational chemistry standpoint, the relationships among chemical structure, electronic structure, and optical properties that make polymethines such promising materials.