Esquire | Color | Field Notes

Esquire magazine uses many different colors throughout its issues. The colors depend on what the overlying theme and color for the entire issue is. The basic color palette id black, white, blue, red and yellow. These five colors are always seen throughout the magazine. The black and white, of course, are used for typography and helps to create some sense of contrast. The colors red and blue are used for accents or for the other details through the magazine, like jump elements, dingbats, and other furniture aspects. The red is used to point out something specific in the story. The blue is also used for subheads, this helps to break up the black and white text. Finally, the color yellow is used often to help the reader make the distinction that a portion of text is a caption rather than a part of the regular text. They alternate certain elements and colors in order to make the reader engage throughout the magazine. This works, because it’s a part of the magazine’s overall infrastructure.


In terms of headlines and cutlines, the typography color can bounce between black, red and blue. These colors tend to be the main colors that the magazine uses to distinguish its typography.


The photos in the magazine tends to vary in color. The photos tend to be in color, especially for features and editorial shoots.


The nameplate is a piece of important and critical matter that the magazine tends to have more fun with. Depending on the issue, the nameplate’s color changes. This works, because the audience never truly knows what to expect. This works because overall, it’s fun and adds an element of surprise.



This color palette works because it helps to solidify the identity of the magazine. These colors are strong and domineering which are both qualities of the Esquire man. The reader can get that the magazine is about having fun but still wants to be respected as a sophisticated and intellectual entity. The base palette of the magazine allows for the creators to have more fun and invite more colors to the palette on a temporary basis. Thus, allowing them to be distinguishable without having to make a fuss or a big change to its already recognized aesthetic.

Field Notes : Color: bon appétit

A Condé Nast publication, bon appétit, uses color in a very intriguing manner creating a symbolic narrative in alignment with the literary narrative. The color schemes are usually a derivative of the images and illustrations that are used in the stories. As mentioned earlier in the Images, most of their photography is curated and staged. In this manner, they have control over the color scheme trying multiple permutations and combinations.

In bon appétit, the colors are usually useful in reflecting the tone of that issue. Since it is a food, drinks and lifestyle magazine the colors play a significant role in translating the topical issue be it a health issue or a holiday issue. Most of their graphic elements and images are full bleed which makes them a prominent visual component.

While playing with a series of solid hues and colors, this is contrasted with leaving the other side of the page white which I guess works well where the color and the white space get balanced in the visual composition of the spread.

This magazine also showcases a lot of advertisements, designating a whole page to one advertisement. Thus, I am guessing that they are selective in choosing their advertisement and the way they placed in the magazine in alignment with the images of their food recipes. Therefore, color is also used to make that distinction in the content that is presented.

This magazine has a lot of choreographed photography, which gives them the ability to control the colors that participate in an image. Now it’s obvious they can not control the colors in the food or the drink, but they control the color of the surroundings, things in the background and foreground of the images and the accessories. What I mean is the whole scene in which that food or drink is photographed in.

The magazine such as bon appétit does not use loud color schemes since they want to depict the content of the food/drink showcased, with utmost clarity without any distractions. They use a lot of light and pastel shades which contributes to the minimal aesthetics followed throughout the magazine.

Additionally, I think the colors contribute to maintaining the freshness and the tempt that is created from the images of the food, drinks and lifestyle tips. This is achieved by using one single shade of color and less or rather no mix match of colors, not even in terms of different hues of the same shade. This preservation of the genuinity of the colors is what makes every issue so persuasive and immersive.

Use of contrasting imagery styles and color schemes.

The colors used for bodycopy, neckline, and even headlines are usually black unless the cover story of the issue where everything is designed differently than the usual sections in the magazine. The cutlines are usually placed on the images with certain kinds of arrow or rule directing the readers to them and that text is usually color in contrast to the full bleed image or sometimes in contrast to the background color o that image/visual element.

Concluding, I think color plays a vital role in the experience of reading a magazine. With the digital versions available, as designers, I think we must be more careful about the use of color and not overdo it or go for a cliché color scheme. The magazine does a very interesting job with the selection and placement of colors.



Field Notes – Color

While browsing through both of my issues of New York Magazine, I found that the main three colors used in typography and graphic elements were black, red, and blue. Red is known as a fiery color representing passion, strength, and danger. Perhaps the use of this color is so prominent because New York Magazine really wants to catch the reader’s attention. The publication covers a variety of material; however, it is not a simple lifestyle magazine like that of Cosmopolitan or Vanity Fair. This publication focuses on more serious topics, including politics and art, so it seems as though this simple, yet bold, color palette keeps the reader informed on its intent of delivering important information. Towards the back of the book, New York Magazine introduces a playful, sky blue color. It feels like it is purposely meant to counteract the serious red shade that implies urgency. The blue is primarily used within the first word of each item in the publication’s “To Do” section. This section of the publication is newsworthy, yet not as critical for the reader to digest – it is not necessary in order for the reader to gain an in-depth understanding of current events. 

Color is rarely used in headlines – it is seen more in pull quotes, captions, decks, and bylines. Their deliberate use of minimal color with typography almost mimics the feel of a newspaper. It feels as though they are trying to exude a level of seriousness and importance by using less color. Body copy is always written in black. Similarly, headlines are also displayed in all black. Display text and bylines shift between black and red; however, they are primarily black.

The photographs do not appear to follow any specific color palette. Perhaps the simple use of color in typography is a deliberate way of offsetting the wide use of color in the photographs. I have found that when I am flipping through the magazine, my eye immediately goes towards the photographs on the page. 


Wired expertly uses color as a way to establish hierarchy on each page, and to distinguish features from one another.

On the cover of Wired, the use of color varies. On the December 2019 issue, there is a bright yellow used to contrast the the teal blue background. This contrast serves to highlight the title of the cover story. The nameplate is in its own color that seems to be pulled from the person featured on the cover. This is a unique combination of colors that is very different from the January 2020 cover. On the more recent issue, the photo is in black and white. There is a similar yellow used here to highlight the nameplate and emphasize the name of the subject of the cover story. While the December issue uses a lot of color and the January issue uses little, both use color in the same way to accent the most important information on the cover: the nameplate and the featured story or person.

Wired’s strategic use of color can be seen in their table of contents. The table of contents uses different shapes to hold the text on the contents page. True to the principles of Gestalt, the use of colors allow the reader to group each section by color, easily, rather than by similar shapes. This makes color an essential part of their contents page. Different colors are used in different issues, but they are always necessary for the functionality of the contents page.

In the first two departments (Electric Word + Mind Grenades) of the magazine, color serves to break up content on the page. Small blurbs of text are housed in colored boxes that allow the reader to easily separate them from the rest of the page. The colors are always consistent throughout Electric Word, unifying the different pages into one identifiable section. In Mind Grenades, the colors are used to differentiate alternate story columns. For example, “Angry Nerd” is orange, while “Chartgeist” is blue. Because the layouts look so similar, the color allows the reader to see that the contents are not the same for each column. The colors used vary from issue to issue, but they are always different among the alternate story forms.

The Gadget Lab department uses vibrant colors to serve as the backdrop for the tech being displayed. It serves an important function here to contrast the typically dark or monochromatic technology. Without the color used here, the Gadget Lab section wouldn’t be as visually interesting.

Color also serves an interesting function as a way to differentiate the features in each issue. While some features are black text on white backgrounds, some features use color to create a visual aesthetic that connects each spread in the feature. For example, the cover story from the January 2020 issue uses a light blue background rather than solid white. There are also many shades of blue and some greens used as part of the page design. The rules and captions are in one shade of blue, interacting well with one another, while a dark blue is used in drop caps and pull quotes, connecting those two components. The frequent use of color in this feature makes sense, as they interact well with the photos, and connect with the lighthearted and quirky nature of the specific feature. In the following feature, which is a much more serious and dark story, the use of colors would feel inappropriate. These different colors help to emphasize the tone of each feature and break up each feature from one another in the only section of the magazine not interrupted by ads.

Overall, the use of colors is necessary to the organization and layout of Wired. However, they are also key to the identity of the magazine. Wired is a bold, and oftentimes fun, magazine. The bright colors connect the reader with this aspect of Wired. 



For the Color field note assignment I will be analyzing the November 2019 issue of Fast Company. The first thing that became apparent to me after flipping through the magazine looking at their color choices, was that Fast Co. doesn’t shy away from color. Instead it plays a strong, behind-the-scenes type of role within the magazine. Fast Co. as a business magazine doesn’t play with color as much as a fashion magazine or more heavily designed magazine might.

Instead they rely on bright pops of colors throughout their book to give the content a modern, and fun aesthetic. They utilize a lot of different colors in their section markers, dingbats, pull quotes and other smaller elements on the pages, while keeping a majority of the actual pages white, gray or the reverse with black background and white text. I think this use of color with smaller elements makes them pop, and adds to the visual hierarchy, which usually emphasizes the importance of the story, photo, or illustration before anything else.

Something else that I found notable is that each story or spread get it’s own little color palette, usually just a color or two that is present in the above mentioned elements and is pulled either from the main illustration (which there are a good amount of in Fast Co.) or the main photo, of the story. Even within the same section the section head and colors on the pages can be vastly different. I think this helps the magazine maintain a fresh feel.

Usually they don’t play around too much with the heds, deks, cutlines, and display copy. It’s either black, gray. I think this reflects their emphasis on scorched earth reporting and their audience that, at least for the print edition is older, affluent and highly-educated and perhaps isn’t the type of crowd that would enjoy wacky colors while reading a story on capitalism. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find their color palette/guidelines online. But after looking at several issues of Fast Company I definitely see some staples like the yellow they often use in their nameplate or the blue (shown in pictures below) that often accompany one of their feature stories. But in the grand scheme of things I believe that they often switch up their color palette, issue to issue, based on what visual components they have to work with and based on the time the magazine will come out (because they’re a bi-monthly magazine).





Field notes: Images: bon appétit

Style & Content

Cover Images:

The cover images are always about the cover story being showcased in that issue. Being a food & drinks magazine, the cover image is most of the times, an insanely yummy looking dish or drink, very rarely the cover images are a famous chef or a human being as the person being clicked for the cover image. The images look very fresh and would persuade you to pick up the magazine and read it. The image also sets the theme of the issue which is usually when they are covering trends in food and drinks or when their issue topic is about the season of the year or any other special issue. They very rarely have multiple images on the cover page. Most of the time, the focus is given towards just that one image which is again repeated inside the magazine in the cover story section. In terms of the content of the photo, bon appétit is very diverse and can focus on a variety of meals right from wholesome meals to snacky dishes to desserts and alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages. The cover image is always complemented with a witty tagline that is placed close to the image or close to the nameplate of the magazine that completes the message the cover image is trying to portray to the readers. Having said all this and the variety showcased all the cover images of bon appétit evoke a sense of temptation and give rise to cravings and hunger for sure!

The variety of themes showcased in the cover images of multiple issues.

Images inside the magazine:

On the inside of the magazine, as well all the images on food and drinks are always given primary importance to on the spread. They are showcased on almost every page next to their respective recipe covered. The magazine’s minimal aesthetics idea is continued in the images as well, where the image does not look too busy the subjects are always still since they are either food or drinks. They are mostly close-up shots taken from a top-view angle. The imagery is staged as in the food dish or drinks are styled in a setting and then the photo is taken in a setting as demanded by the art director. In this way, one can agree that photography is nearly choreographed with most of them having a light/pastel background which works well in contrast to the colorful vegetables and meat pieces.

The cover story featuring a full spread. Kindly notice the contrast between the image and the typeface of the textual element and the placement of the text with the image

Relation of the textual element with the image

Use of Images on the page:

Since photography is staged for many stories covered in the issue, the designers even predict the size and placement of the image on the page and click the image accordingly. Most of the images are rectangular. Whenever there is a repetitive element in the image, the image is usually cut from there. The images are mostly spread across the entire side of the page and sometimes if a recipe is being showcased the designers use 1 full spread showing images of the different stages of the recipe right from its raw stage to the complete look of the dish along with the garnish and presentation of the dish.

Text is minimum. The headlines and witty taglines are what get noticed since the steps of the preparation are written as body copy. The text is placed in a way that interacts with the image and the typeface of the taglines is a derivation of the image.

Types of Imagery & Frequency of Use:

Photos: Photos are used often especially when it comes to cover images. The images as staged and when I look at them the concept of still life is what comes to my mind. It’s like the images are captured in that moment of stillness that makes your mouth water and triggers the temptation. All the photos are strictly color and this works for a magazine like bon appétit which is about food, drinks, food trends, lifestyle and entertainment showcasing the glamour and freshness through the dishes showcased.

Illustrations: Illustrations are used less in frequency as compared to images, but they are always used to complement a textual element or the image. They are also used to summarize certain aspects of the recipe. The illustrations are mostly single-line drawings which are in singular line weight and are overlapped with the image.

Graphics: A very minimum use of graphics is done as the magazine covers food recipes thus it is not that heavy on data information and representation. But sometimes when there is an issue focusing on a particular them such as an issue on food & drinks to have in the summer season, they showcase a full spread infographic concerning the food eaten in the summers.

On the overall, I think the combination of photos and illustrations is what works well for me when I read the magazine since they attempt to create a visual memory of an issue in the heads of the readers and sometimes people even remember recipes by the images and illustrations they see rather than the step-wise written recipe. Thus Images and illustrations are crucial to a magazine such as bon appétit.


Field Notes: Furniture #Part 2: bon appétit

Along with highlighting graphical elements in my previous post, there is a consistency in the textual elements as well. To begin with, the headline is the textual element that has the maximum line weight followed by the deck line, which is less bold, but they make sure to highlight the name of the chef of the recipe showcased. They make sure to give a distinct space to give photo credits which are usually at the bottom right-hand side of the and the name is repeated in the deck line as well where it is bolder.

With being specific about photo credits the folio of the magazine that is page number-month issue is what comes on the bottom left of the page. Generally, the folio and the photo credits are kept in horizontal alignment filling both corners of each page. The top of the page has the section name written at the center of the page, which is underlined and, in this manner, they separate the section name from the page number-monthly issue when it comes to folio representation by the magazine.

Being a magazine on food and drinks the “bylines” are mentioned right below the deck line and they are often the names of the chefs who have written that recipe. The bylines have a bolder typographic weight than the deck line but are smaller in-text height than the headline and deck line text height.

As mentioned, a lot of line type graphic is used for making rules and column grid distinctions. The first line of every article begins with a dingbat (a triangle) and the first few words are all in uppercase and bold.

Another interesting aspect is that the magazine uses many cut lines near their images. Most of the time these cut lines are succinct and talk about a tip or a piece of advice the chef would give the readers or the readers that attempt the recipe covered. I think this is interesting since I have seen many magazines with cut lines that is either a description of the image of a cutline from the article written, thus I think this is very unique to a magazine such as bon appétit and it is also a strategy I would like to implement for my magazine prototype.



Field Notes #7: Images in National Geographic

Image Style & Content

  • Covers
    • Faithful readers can imagine the average cover image of an issue of National Geographic: vertical, centered, filling the foreground, depth of focus. However, the cover images are much more varied than readers realized. While photos are most commonly used, illustrations appear on covers as well. Some cover photos are in color, some black and white. Subjects include people, animals, nature, planets, etc. Subjects can be passive or active. Sometimes, there are even multiple images on the cover. Despite this wide variation of photo style and content, the feeling NatGeo’s cover images evoke is consistent: wonder.

  • Inside Images
    • The inside images are just as varied as the cover images, if not more. They are portraits, landscapes, nature and animal images. Most are in color, and they show active and passive subjects. Image use patterns are seen in articles within the same categories. Science articles tend to feature close-up and microimages. Images in cultural and human stories tend to include medium shots. Nature stories feature wide photos of landscapes and natural structures.

This variety of cover and inside images works well to represent not only the scope of topics covered in NatGeo, but it also represents the scope of the human and animal experience.

Use on the Page

Images vary in size, and they are almost always rectangular or square in shape. 

On the contents page, small images are used to introduce non-feature articles, while one large photo introduces the features. 

Small photos, which vary in shape, are also used on the “What’s Coming” spread. The limited use of non-square images is wise, as uncommon shapes tend to present a casual, playful identity. 

A significant portion of the page is dedicated to image use. Articles with even the smallest of images still tend to lend most of the page space to it. The use of large images creates a visual hierarchy and helps the reader get through many columns of text.

Images not only draw the eye from the headline into the story, but they also introduce the content of the articles.

Text is sometimes used on images, more so on graphics and illustrations, less so on photos in a photojournalism spread.

Type of Images & Frequency of Use

  • Photos
    • Photos are used most frequently, especially on the cover. Size, shape, orientation, and tightness vary, but photos are almost always in color. Using photos most often works well with NatGeo, because it is a magazine which documents our world. Use real, unaltered photos best presents the content and builds trust with the readership, as they are assured the image content is realistic.
  • Illustrations
    • Illustrations are used more when photos on a certain topic are sparse. For example, the main feature of the February 2020 is about the African slave trade. Photos on this topic are limited, so the cover of the issue features an illustration.
  • Graphics
    • Graphics are used regularly to present data. NatGeo is a data-heavy publication, and the use of graphics presents this information in a more digestible fashion.

The New Yorker – Images

The New Yorker uses a variety of images in its publication. The most iconic imagery often associated with the New Yorker are its illustrations, though. The cover is always an illustration or painting of some sort from an artist, and it fills the entire page and always has a connection to the theme or sets the tone for the current events covered in that issue.

The New Yorker uses mostly cartoons or smaller, graphic-like illustrations to break up text-heavy pages. These sketches have detail and engage the reader beyond just a visual break. They tell a mini story of their own, or they are complementary to the story they are placed in. Typically, the small graphics are in color.

For example, the graphic below is a tracing of the movements of a dancer, which goes with the story of “postmodern dance.”

Below is an example of a tiny graphic at the top of the table of contents. The icon is in every issue and that man with the tall hat is the symbol for the New Yorker,  which is very fitting for an image in the front of book.

The New Yorker’s cartoons are also an iconic aspect of the publication. While the cartoons may not go with the story they are placed in, they provide a comedic relief and some nice white space to break up the page and give the reader’s eyes some rest from the sturdy blocks of text. They’re always black and white, much like a newspaper cartoon.

The New Yorker uses a handful of photos (probably less than 5) in each issue, and if they do use photos, they take up an entire page. For example, below I have two photos used in the same issue that are posed and starkly contrast the sketch-like illustrations that fill the rest of the issue. Both photos are strong and stirring photos in their own way, and by putting them on their own pages, it brings more awareness to the portraits.

All of the New Yorker’s images are square, except when they appear as column signifiers, and in that case, they appear to be protruding from the department flag. The New Yorker uses many images, but typically only the images for big profiles and features are large and the rest are smaller to give room for more text.


Wired is a magazine that discusses how new tech intersects with, and affects, human life and culture. Appropriately, the images used in Wired are a mix of photos of new technologies and photos of the people affected by technology around the world.

The images in Wired vary from department to department. For example, the images in the “Mind Grenades” department are full page illustrations that bleed off the page. This is the department where the first stories of the magazine appear. These stories are shorter and not as journalistic as those that appear in the feature well, so the images serve an important purpose for getting the readers attention and leading them into the story. The illustrations are often colorful, unique, and eye-catching. They stand out against the white text placed on top of them, as well as the ads that appear throughout this early section, making them easy to recognize as part of the actual magazine content. The illustrations vary in style from vector illustrations to manipulated photos. However, they are noticeably  bold and somewhat provocative, which is congruent with the overall concept and design of Wired.

The final story of this section is in contrast with the rest by being a large photograph that bleeds across the gutter. It is also contained within the top and bottom margins of the page, unlike its predecessors. The photo will usually feature some new technology or specific innovation, and will be accompanied by labels that describe different parts of the technology featured.

The “Gadget Lab” is the department of Wired that profiles all the new tech toys and tools that have been released and are available to the public. This section is essentially a catalog telling readers what they should buy, so Wired does its best to make it as visually interesting as possible. The images are just cutouts of the items that Wired is recommending to its readers, but they are juxtaposed against extremely colorful and interesting backgrounds. This provides a unique context for the items that someone usually wouldn’t see on a website or in a store. Wired plays with the layout of this section as well. In one issue, items are arranged vertically in a list format, whereas, in a more recent issue, the items are placed into boxes contained within the margins of the page. I believe that Wired does a really great job here of using images to create personality for a section that might not have had it otherwise.

The feature well is where the images of Wired really shine, however. The long form stories of this section focus on the human aspect of technology, and how technology can enhance, or harm, the lives of real people around world. As a result, the photos are distinctly emotional, powerful, and, of course, very human. They are typically posed photos of the person profiled in their home, workspace, or other appropriate environment. Many of them are medium shots that reflect some kind of emotion appropriate to the story.  A lot these photos tend to speak for themselves and will occupy an entire page without any additional information. Other times, the photos will be placed within the columns of the pages to provide a visual representation of what the story is discussing. There is no strict format for the way the images interact with the white space of the page, as each featured story has its own unique design. The powerful  imagery used throughout this section creates a very compelling narrative that is evocative and easy to follow.

Wired makes strong use of its imagery. Nothing feels out of place or unnecessary. The intention behind each photo is clear and works with the written content to create complete narratives for the reader.