The Poynter Institute’s review of the new NPR.org was one of the few to specifically note our use of turquoise to designate audio elements across the site. This color and usage choice was my doing and as I’ve thought about it since launch, I wonder why I chose turquoise. My semiotics professor, Natalia Ilyin, would say that designers don’t make choices like this by chance, so for the sake of navel-gazing intellectualism, I thought I’d dig a little deeper.
The initial color scheme Schematic provided us didn’t include a turquoise. There was a lighter, more vibrant blue (as seen on the program pages); not green enough to be considered turquoise. I could have used this color to denote audio, since our programs, in effect, are all audio, killing two birds with one stone. But, I felt that audio needed to have its own unique color.
So why turquoise? What were my subliminal motives?
According to various color resources, turquoise (a tertiary color resulting from mixing a primary color with a secondary color) is classified with blues. Blues are generally seen as low-arousal colors, resulting in a cool, calming effect. Which is probably why blue is most often cited as a favorite color by both men and women.
So maybe I chose it because I want our listeners to feel calm when they listen to audio clips about suicide bombings in Afghanistan, the latest plane crash, or why health reform is failing. Or maybe because shades of blue are safe and neutral and most people like them.
Honestly, though, here’s the truth. I just like it.
Looking around my personal affects, I’ve noted several other points in my life where turquoise was my choice of color. We’re re-modeling our kitchen and for the one-wall accent color, I chose turquoise. I recently built a fixed-gear bike and while my initial intentions were to paint the frame a matte ballet pink, upon seeing the powder coat swatches, I chose a high-gloss turquoise instead. My favorite leather jacket is turquoise, and in the past year, I’ve also acquired at least three shirts in varying shades of turquoise, one pair of turquoise leather slingbacks, a MAC turquoise eye stick and NARS turquoise eye shadow.
So maybe what it all boils down to is that I’m a cheap fashion whore, prone to – as Miranda Priestly might say – fishing last season’s finds out of clearance bins. Here’s the related dialogue from The Devil Wears Prada, where Meryl Streep coldly admonishes Anne Hathaway for her ignorant referral to important fashion details, i.e., color, as “stuff”:
Andy Sachs: No, no, nothing. Y’know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. Y’know, I’m still learning about all this stuff.
Miranda Priestly: This… ‘stuff’? Oh… ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.
So, actually, I take that back. This isn’t just turquoise you see on the new NPR.org. It’s bright cerulean. And I was probably brainwashed into liking it by Christian Dior.