A Fond Farewell to TIME

By now it is probably of little secret that I love the design of Time. Besides its website, there is little that I have complained about during the course of the field note assignments.

There are several things that I like about the news magazine. The first is its deceptively simple design. Time only uses three colors­, its famed red, black and white. Red is used in moderation for accent colors and appears enough so that it is noticed but not so much that the reader’s eyes tire from seeing it. The magazine also only uses two typefaces, a sans and a serif, both of which are basic and straightforward.

Along with the basic colors and type, the main layouts of the pages appear effortless, especially in the well and feature sections. The publication uses white space well to divide different components on the page rather than using boxes or rules. Time also stays on a strict grid, although this changes from three to four columns throughout the publication for variety.

With all of this simple and reserved design, one might think that the magazine would be boring to read. I have found that this could not be further from the truth. The design allows for the excellent content to shine through, engaging the reader through great writing and photography instead of gimmicky devices. The photography and images used throughout Time, especially on the cover, draw the reader in and have become some of the most famed images in news magazine history. The reader is able to see the content and follow the message of the story easily and glean information from the pages.

Time’s cover is the epitome of its design representation. Many aspects of the cover never, ever change, such as the red border and iconic nameplate. This builds a sense of familiarity with the reader or someone looking for the magazine on the newsstand in a slew of other publications. The interesting aspects, therefore, are the photograph/illustration that presents a topic frequently seen in the news and how it works with the type. The latter is usually minimal and uses the same typefaces that are seen on the inside pages.

(Aside: As I was typing the paragraph above, I wondered what Time did for a cover about the bin Laden story. I assumed correctly that it would be a cover. Although it is a special report, it still follows the publication’s design; the illustration is simply a photograph of bin Laden with a red X painted over his face. Brilliant.)

Time’s design decisions correlate with the magazine’s personality, identity and purpose (or perhaps it is the other way around). It is first of all a highly regarded source of news. It must therefore be reliable and consistent. The content must also be the loudest voice rather than the design. As I wrote above, all of these characteristics are matched with the design and layout choices.

I have learned a lot through studying Time this semester. I think that I like the magazine’s design decisions because they are similar to the ones that I made for my own publication. I recognized that simplicity and order can produce interesting design rather than something bland and stale. I also learned that there is a lot of complexity in such a simple and consistent design. It is actually easier, in a way, to create crazy layouts with a lot of color. It is much harder to use the same basic layout, structures, color and type every week in new and interesting ways. Keeping the publication consistent while not repetitive is difficult, and I respect Time’s designers for creating excellent design every week.