Field Notes | The New York Times Magazine | Week 10—Color

The New York Times Magazine, as a whole, uses color sparingly. All headlines, cutlines, body copy and most display text, are black. On a couple front of book stories and in the back of book short profile, there is pure cyan color used for small information text. This calls attention to that type on the page, but creates separation from the grayscale icons and type surrounding it. Another notable diversion from the all black type is on the feature stories. In this issue, all the feature stories use red as the branding color. For the cover story, an inverted approach was used. This was likely to call attention to the importance of this story and pull it out from the rest of the content in the center of the magazine. Besides those instances, for all the stories, type is treated in black.

For a magazine that serves as a counterpart to, and in some ways an extension of, a newspaper, the lack of extreme color play makes sense. It would be uncharacteristic of The New York Times brand to be totally outlandish with the color of their headlines and display type. Their color approach pays homage to its roots in newspaper, but pushes some boundaries with the blue color to emphasize it still has the benefits and capabilities of a magazine.

In terms of photography and illustration, there is a similarity to the color palette. All the colors feel realistic rather than overly saturated. There is a modesty to the photo treatments that is rather reserved. This issue in particular has a lot more serious topics rather than some of the magazine’s more “fun” stories. With those stories, the design team clearly has more fun with color because those story topics can handle that play.

Finally, in terms of the intangible factors of the magazine, I think The NYT Magazine can get away with a lot more experimentation than other publications. Part of this may come from the fact that they publish weekly, which is a more frequent timeline than most magazines, but another part may come from the designers’ confidence in the reputation of the brand they represent. Sometimes when a news organization has such a well-respected point of view and standard, their choices are not always held to the same level of critique as organizations who do not have that established reputation. I applaud the design team’s frequent experimentation, and admire it, but at times I think they get away with choices that aren’t always the strongest. At the same time, I love that I never know exactly what I’m going to get from the pages of the magazine, and it always feels unique. It’s a double-edged sword, but I think it’s important to continue critiquing and analyzing the choices of magazines even those with as strong a reputation as The New York Times Magazine.