Field Notes: Color

The Washington Post uses very little color when it comes to their body copy, headlines, cutlines, display text, etc. Most color in this publication is in the advertisements and photographs.

While exploring the WP, the only color I saw used, in terms of text, was red. The WP uses red in most of its promos and refers. The red in the refers at the bottom of the cover page denote the main subject for the two or three featured articles in the “In the News” section. This color element helps readers know exactly what the main subject of the article will be.

In the promos at the top of the various sections, red text is used for the main ideas/subjects for the articles or sections within this portion of the newspaper. By using color here, the WP helps readers figure out the main idea of the important articles. Despite being at the top of the page, the WP also adds another element of hierarchy (color) to emphasize the importance of various articles.

The WP also uses red to highlight mini-subjects or topics within articles. The red section names distinguish them from the rest of the text in the article. These mini-headings help the reader know where this section of text is featured in the world, or what the overall topic is for that section of text.

The WP also use the color blue in some of the text of in the publication. Usually the color blue denotes extra information available elsewhere or further details for readings. For example, an article may have a slideshow that is available online. This will be featured in blue. Also, any online content or multimedia elements may be featured in blue. By using a different color, this cues readers that they need to take extra steps to partake in this extra information.

As far as the use of blue and red, I believe this emphasizes the “political” feel the WP has. Red is also a very powerful and meaningful color. Any text featured in red should be read and is very important. The red against the white background and amongst the black text, makes it stand out and draw the reader in. The blue color is seen as an easy color on the eyes. It is not as “in your face” as the red color, but it is seen. It still portrays the fact that information in this color should be read.

For headlines in the ‘Style’, ‘Sports’ and ‘Arts’ sections, the WP is a little more creative. They use color for some of these headlines. These headlines often feature colors from the main image of the article. Color use for these sections denotes that some of these articles are less newsy. These articles may be less formal than those in the first section of the publication.

Overall I think the WP’s minimal use of color works for the publication. It makes the publication “cleaner” and easy to read. I believe the color does add a little life to some of the articles or body copy, but it is not needed. WIth a lot of the photographs and graphics using color, it is ok not to use as much in the body copy, headlines, and other parts of the publication.

The WP is seen as a very reputable publication and I believe going “overboard” or adding colors just because, can ruin this credibility. The WP knows when and when not to use color and it is very effective in its use of color.