Cool and Neutral Expressions

The nameplate, above, sets the color tone and palette for the entire paper for a unifying design.

Do you see the common color theme here?  Expresso clearly chose to go with an overall cool palette for their color combinations.  Everything seems to stem from their nameplate, a blue box with the name of the paper in a white reverse, which gives the paper a unifying theme throughout.  The color blue is rarely used for type, except a few pull quotes or drop caps.  Never will you find a long section of type or a headline in the color blue.  Rather, the blue, which I should make note of is not a traditional navy blue but more like the lighter and brighter blue in the nameplate of the Post Standard, is used for background color, boxes, or as a design element.  To go with the blue, and continue with a cool palette, different hues of black and gray are used for complementing elements of the design.  Many illustrations are also with a cool palette in mind, but do interject brighter and bolder colors as well.

If a cool palette of blues, blacks and grays, is not being used then a neutral palette is put into place.  As seen above, where there would normally be blue boxes are now a subtle beige.  To complement this, the blacks and grays are still used.  But, just this one change in color transitions the palette from a cool to neutral family.  Absent on these pages entirely is the blue seen everywhere else.  This does seem weird to me, and makes me think that if not designed similarly to the rest of the paper, these pages lacking blue could easily seem out of place.  Expresso must be weary of this and make sure to use the same typefaces and style elements in order to hang on to that consistency and flow which is seamless throughout the rest of the paper.  Other than this, I think the change of palettes is an interesting take.  For example, the stories above are much more serious in tone (one being about the worldwide economic problems related to Wall Street and the other about homelessness) and the using the cool palette may have seemed out of place and cheeky for the story.  By implementing the beige, Expresso avoided having design and content that were opposite of one another.

Even the A1 page and many infographics use the cool palette as a starting point and overall theme.  However, Expresso always uses the color red to draw attention to its main headlines or things it wants people to pay attention to.  Using this bright red–a severe contrast from the cools and neutrals of the main component–allows the readers’ eyes to easily understand the hierarchy of elements and organization of the page.  The main headline on A1 is clear and stands out, telling the reader, “Pay attention to me!”  Also, the refer or promo that Expresso wants you to pay attention to on A1 is in red.  Unlike the main headline, however, it is not in a bold or serif typeface so it does not draw attention away from the main headline.  On many infographics, including the one above, the color red is used to make the key information stand out.  This allows the reader to glance at or take little time with the infographic but still take away the main point(s) and key information it was meant to relate.  If spending more time with the infographic, the key information in red acts as headings for the more detailed information surrounding it.

Overall, in my opinion, the color choices of Expresso make the paper seem incredibly approachable and down to earth–it is not a “hoitey-toity” newspaper that is meant for the elite.  Rather, the cool and neutral palettes allow the paper to make the reader feel comfortable and that it was meant for everyone.  I want to avoid the word casual, because that would imply the content is casual.  But, I can’t think of another word to describe the design of the paper.  For example, reading this does not have to be a chore or event in itself, but it is a welcoming experience and an easy flow through the individual pages and publication as a whole.  If I were to describe the personality Expresso through color it would be laid-back and friendly but still trustworthy, and I think that it the best way to illustrate its feel.  The overall perception that its audience gets from the paper is that it is one of them, just another person riding on the subway or sitting at their desk at work.