Let’s talk about art style, colour theory and symbolism in Transistor! Yay!
First of all, I’m not well versed in these particular art styles, so I could be talking nonsense for all I know.
Secondly: Probably mildly spoilery! Read at your own risk. And now on with the overanalysisng of video games!
So I noticed a couple of days ago that there’s a distinct stylistic division in Transistor. Specifically between Red and the Camerata, they are represented by different art styles. Red’s motif is all Art Nouveau, most obviously in the posters advertising her show, which is a style all about organic shapes and reflecting nature. It shows that she’s a very organic person, all about feelings and life. She’s the life of the game and the life of Cloudbank. Remember how deeply her music affected people? It made them think, and it made them riot. Red is all about life and emotions. The colours that represent her are red, of course, and gold, both of which are very warm, rich, life-filled colours.
In contrast, the Camerata’s motifs seem to draw inspiration from Art Deco, which is fitting since it was kind of competing with art nouveau when they were popular. Art Deco is all hard lines, geometric shapes, very stiff and calculated. I think this reflects the Camerata pretty well, in particular Royce, who came to see the world as a series of numbers and equations, and Grant, who was tired of the endless, predictable cycles the city went through.
In addition to that, the colours of the Camerata are red and white. The red I think shows that they are people too, they’re only doing what they think is best. But the white is in contrast to Red’s gold. It’s a cold, clean, clinical sort of colour. Combined with the straight sharp lines of the Camerata’s outfits and symbols, it shows that they are more cut off from the people of the city. Red is directly connected to the people and she does what’s best for them just by being herself. The Camerata were all higher up admins for a long time, so they could easily become disconnected from knowing what the people really wanted.
I think the white also reflects how the Camerata wanted everything to stay the same. Something about white says “unchanging” to me.
Also, looking at the possible symbolism of the colours, it’s interesting to see how the outfits of individual Camerata members shows their personalities. They all wear red, black and white. Grant, who truly wants to do what’s best for the people, wears mostly red. Royce, the most calculating and aloof, wears mostly white.
Sybil is an interesting exception in two ways. Firstly, she wears a flowing dress, which is more in line with Red’s stylistic motifs than the Camerata’s. This makes sense since she was the one out there getting close to people. She was, in a way, the life of the Camerata. The other thing different about her is that she wears hints of gold, around her neckline and belt. Gold is Red’s colour. Sybil had a massive gay crush on Red. [waggles eyebrows]
I also think it’s really cool how the game has this whole sort of cyber noir thing going on and the two big art motifs are from the 1920s-40s when noir was really popular.
Ok, I’m done.
Oh wait, one more thing. I have no idea what it could mean, but you also see a lot of the art nouveau thing going on inside the Spine.