TIME – Color

TIME Magazine’s signature color palette is red and black. The cover always has a red bar, and the nameplate is often either red or black (but sometimes white). On the inside of the magazine, this color palette is repeated in headlines, bylines, subheads, illustrations and graphics to draw attention to specific elements or to break up the monotony of black and white.

Like on the Verbatim page, TIME not only uses variation in typeface and size, but also color. Here, red is used to influence the hierarchy on the page, the reader gets the idea that all the elements are somewhat equally important. Even though there are some elements that take up less space or the text is smaller, the red stands out, as opposed to elements where the font is large or in caps, but there’s no red.



In the front of the book, headlines are black, while bylines and sometimes section titles are red. This pattern continues throughout The Brief, The View and Time Off. Because in these sections, there are so many separate elements on the page this pattern works and allows the reader to differentiate them and quickly determine where the start of a new story is.

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For the feature stories in the well, the visuals team may use an additional color for emphasis. For example, this story about left-leaning millennials uses blue brackets around the corners of the opening spreads, around the drop cap at the start of the story, and blue titles at the beginning of every subsection on the story. Blue, because that color is associated with leftist politics in the United States. The next story, about the GOP, uses red in the same way. I would assume that TIME would’ve used red here even if red wasn’t one of its signature colors. In this instance, the red as associated with the GOP may have even worked against TIME and gone unnoticed by its loyal readers because it’s so often used in the rest of the book.

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In this double issue of TIME, blue is used on the cover and continues to be used throughout the issue, particularly in the sections related to the cover story. Blue is used throughout the stories on aging and Alzheimer’s in headlines, bylines, pull captions and sidebars. Using this color allows the reader to understand that all the content in this section is related to the theme of longevity and aging. Using red here wouldn’t signal to the reader, upon first glance, that one story is any more related to the next one, since red is used for emphasis all over the issue, across all issues of TIME.

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Once we leave the section, TIME immediately returns to the red and black, to let the reader know that that content has ended.

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In case the reader didn’t understand with the red and black backgrounds bleeding off the page on the opening spread, the story is rife with red section headings and red and black illustrations, which is much more gratuitous use of color than in usual stories. It helps that the story is about good debt (black) and bad debt (red), but I don’t think it was necessary to use the colors that much after the opening spread. Again, I think using red and black here is not as powerful, since TIME uses that color palette throughout the rest of the book.

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Overall, TIME uses a pretty characteristic, simple, and consistent color palette of red and black over all of its issues. The repetitiveness, particularly in the front and back of book sections for headlines/subheads/bylines, helps the reader differentiate the start and end of stories. But it makes it harder for the readers to differentiate red being used for normal emphasis and red being used to symbolize a specific idea (like the GOP or bad debt).