CNN.com: What do we see? COLOR! LIGHT!

11Nov09

Who doesn’t like a splash of COLOR?

I know I personally do.

Let’s think back to the old days, the “Leave it to Beaver” days, where everything was black and white. Kind of boring, right? The news was that way. Lots of text surrounding black and white photos. The only interaction was to turn the pages and follow the story. With the black and white texts and photos, you could read about the story and see the picture, but you couldn’t really grasp the sense of what was happening. Even the best news writer or photojournalist could not combat this. Why? You weren’t there! You couldn’t see exactly what was happening or have someone point out what the story was about and interview someone live on camera. Black and White text lacks COLOR!

I hope you enjoyed that psychadellic trip of a first paragraph. I’m curious. What colors stuck out to you? Was it the red? The blue?

CNN.com in its design uses a LOT of red. Let’s look at our previously posted screen shot of the new CNN.com again:

CNN.com ScreenshotMan that’s a whole lot of red on the the top of that webpage. Even the tabs are red! What is the point of all this red?!?

Red is a color of passion, danger, excitement and strength. Many times people connote red with sex or hunger. Is CNN suggesting that they have sexy news or the news you are hungry for just by their color scheme? They sure are.

Let’s think about sexy news. We’re attracted to CNN’s news stories. Why? Well looking in the middle of the page there are boxes of color that make me want to click and interact with it. I want to watch it. I become hungry for CNN due to it’s webpage sexiness. It’s is news that amuses us from our laptops.

Why are the tabs at the top in red? They are leading you to more of CNN.com’s exciting, interactive news. Once you click on a tab, it becomes white to indicate what page you are now looking at. The tabs remind me of an old rolodex: you know, the one that your mom used to keep all the family phone numbers on in your house. (Or at least that’s what it was in my house… there was an address/ phone number book as well) When you selected the tab of the last name of the person that you wanted to look up, you flipped to that card. No longer was the card in the shadow, but now it was in the light so you could read what was on the card. This is what CNN.com does with it’s top tabs. It’s gives a rolodex effect so that people who have never encountered the site before but who have probably encountered tab systems can probably figure out where to click. The color change indicates your interaction with their tabbed system.

What about BREAKING NEWS?! Why Yellow? If you’ve ever watched a CNN broadcast, you know that they place BREAKING NEWS in yellow across the screen when something exciting happens. Ironically yellow gives ideas of warmth, sunshine, and happiness. Usually, the breaking news that is featured is something sad or horrendus. (Think back to California Wildfires, Virginia Tech Shooting, or even 9-11.) Breaking news is not fun stuff. Is CNN trying to capture us with their irony? The website is also filled with breaking news updates.

So on top of the boxy design, CNN has color. But behind all the red, blue and yellow are deeper rhetorical and psychological connections. It is color choice that affords us the opportunity to understand CNN.com on a deeper level.

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One Response to “CNN.com: What do we see? COLOR! LIGHT!”

  1. 1 Scott Reed

    What about a simpler answer? Red is consistent with CNN’s logo. I like the riff on “sexy news” well enough, and challenge you to consider how branding plays into the sexiness.

    Still, this riff has consequences more far-reaching than you acknowledge here. (Does knowledge have to be sexy anymore for us to digest it? What does that say about us? And about knowledge?)


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