The Economist has a generally neutral color palette that they strictly follow and rarely tread away from. The palette consists of a bright tomato red, black, a translucent blue/gray, and a light gray. The red is used most memorably in the magazine’s nameplate and is also used to identify sections throughout the publication. Red is also found in small doses as an accent color in subheds, accent boxes, as well as in small squares to signal the end of a story. Of the color palette the red is the most identified with the magazine. The red gives a sense of authority, which is echoed when used as a guide through the different sections. Because there is very little other color throughout, disregarding photographs and illustrations, the red draws in the eye to important information.
The small red box on the left hand corner (picture below) is regularly used to identify important charts and graphs.
The translucent blue/gray is used to identify side columns on the same page as another story, makes up the folio at the top of each page, and is used as the background for graphs or charts. This color is subdued and not meant to grab the readers attention, but it also subtly identifies additional information on the page that might interest the reader.
A basic black is always used for the body copy within The Economist and is often used for heds and deks. There is never any color (that I could find) used in body copy. I think the reason for this is that the magazine takes news very serious, though they often have a more sarcastic and playful tone regarding important issues, they want that seriousness to come through to the reader. The body copy should speak easily to the reader without the distraction of bright colors.
The one time that The Economist strays away from this color palette is when presenting charts and graphs, for which it seems to have its own separate color palette. This palette includes some of the colors from the original, such as the red, black, and translucent blue/gray, but also uses a powder blue, sky blue, navy, and maroon. These colors are all similar to the original palette and the variations are used out of a sense of practicality instead of creativity. They simply identify the different subject presented so that the reader can easily decipher the differences.
Overall the color palette of The Economist is meant to give a sense of guidance and hierarchy to the magazine. Color is used to identify sections and stories, but appears subdued on the page (with the exception of the bright red). Photographs and illustrations do add a different aspect of color to stories, but often the photographs are quite small, so that you often have to really squint to see all the details. Photographs are not used to tell a story, but rather to give the reader a sense of time and place, which is why they generally appear so small. They are not the story; they supplement it.