Color FieldNotes (Metro NY)

Metro uses a few colors divided section by section. Sidebars serving as section heads use a different color on a gradient—going from dark at the top to light in the middle and back to dark at the bottom. The same color as used in the section head also is used to accentuate text throughout the section, either by coloring the text of certain words or by forming the background color of reverses used to give supplemental information. Yellow is also used to accentuate text in each section, though it is used more sparsely.

On the plus side, using different colors for different sections serves Metro well, particularly in its treatment of text. The words and reverses using the section color pop. They create nice access points on any given page. And the information the color highlights is well selected. Sometimes the text giving readers a sense of the story before they commit to reading the whole story. Sometimes it gives useful information of where the story takes place, or drives the reader to the website or social media. For a readership made up primarily of commuters this is a good strategy. As readers arrive at work and set up for the day they may want to follow up on a story they’ve read online. The use of color means they won’t have to scour the paper to find the relevant information.

To the bad, there are a couple of issues. First, the gradient in the section heads is too noticeable and makes the paper feel a bit cheap, a bit tabloidish, a bit petty/unreliable. Furthermore, images contained in the section head take the section color. For instance, a photo of Katy Perry in the green “news” section head gives the pop star green, hulk-like skin. It’s a bit off putting. It draws too much attention to itself. The second issue is that the colors are too similar. There are only three sections. The “news” section is green. The “culture” section is blue. And the “sports” section is yellow-green. There’s just not enough distinction between sections for me. Metro might have chosen similar colors for a sense of continuity, but I think readers want better, more easily recognizable cues as to where they are in the paper. In this regard, I also think a color key at the front of the paper would be useful to set up the sections by color. That way a reader could look at the cover to see that sports is a certain color and then flip until he sees that color.

A final note on color. Metro uses an earthy, foresty green to brand itself. The green is used as the background color for the nameplate reverse. It too is a gradient, but a much more subtle one that works because it doesn’t distract. I like the choice and treatment of the branding color. It evokes a feel of modernness, and has conservationist undertones, both elements that aught to appeal to its target audience.

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Cameron Young