- (Photo: WMATA)
Among WMATA's struggles and announcements this week, the transit agency finally settled on the color for its new line extending out into Dulles, Virginia. Yes, the Dulles Metro line, costing $107 million over the next three years, will have the name we expected: the Silver Line.
The color choice had fallen into doubts in recent months as WMATA redesigned its map. One of the questions in their big map survey asked people what color they would like — perhaps, for instance, commuters would like the Dulles extension to be considered part of the Orange line for simplicity's sake? Or maybe cherry-blossom pink, as map designer Lance Wyman considered? But as I wrote then, silver is one fantastically cool color, and I'm glad to hear WMATA chose it.
Yet color signifies much more than mere hue in our culture. Color is connotation. It's psychology. It's a whole world of associations and meanings. Our colors even have distinct meanings articulated by the people who talk gemstones and karma and all that. So as WMATA picks its new line color, I'm naturally led to wonder — just what does silver typically evoke among those who study and know color?
This color, after all, may subtly influence how people react to the Silver Line for years. Let's investigate the symbolism and psychology of color as it relates to our WMATA system.
I turned to the work of Jill Morton, who literally wrote the book on color symbolism in recent years. She is a Hawaii-based consultant with a Master's in fine art and according to her bio, has consulted Kodak, Nokia, and Xerox on color choices. In examining the meanings of colors, I faced a query — are we really talking about silver or are we walking about gray? Recent drafts for the new Metro map include the dull of gray for the Silver Line rather than the sparkle of silver.
Let's turn to Morton's psychological associations for "gray" in her e-book selection Color Voodoo:
neutrality, intelligence, futurism, modesty, technology, secure, liberalism, tranquility, cold, retirement, indifference, decay, sadness, dreariness
These attributes generally aren't too bad! At least the first ones. The gray of the Silver Line would carry secure cachet with it, a futuristic and sleek punch. I like that. Yes, some psychological association with decay and retirement is natural — what color, after all, does the hair of the elderly turn to — but the Silver Line will be new. Problem avoided. Then again, perhaps Metro should seek out silver foxes to advertise the new line. Who wouldn't want to ride an Anderson Cooper WMATA line?
In the land of gemstones, silver refers to the Godess and the Moon, patience and reflection, which are also great attributes for a new train line in a transit agency that's seeking to revitalize its system and restore its once-sterling reputation. All things considered, Silver seems like the right choice.
But what of the five existing Metro lines? Here's how Morton breaks down the colors that lend their hue to our other Metro lines:
RED: Energy, warmth, strength, impulse, dynamism, activity, courage, excitement, love, passion, dominance, rebellion, aggression, war and combat, violence, sexuality, prostitution
Verdict: Accurate. Who hasn't felt the activity and excitement of the Red Line? Especially during delays. And warmth? Why, just turn to the recent fire at Union Station for the confirmation of that.
BLUE: Spirituality, trust, truth, cleanliness, tranquility, contentment, immateriality, passivity, understanding, conservatism, security, technology, masculinity, coolness and cold, introversion, melancholy, depression
Verdict: I'll admit, the Blue Line always does strike me as one of the least controversial and easy of the lines. Very business, very straightforward, and very much fitting with this cool description here.
GREEN: Nature, growth, fruitfulness, renewal, freshness, tranquility, hope, youth, health, peace, good luck, coolness, envy, immaturity
Verdict: Least accurate. I take the Green Line every day, and while it's a fine enough ride, there is no way anyone would associate "growth" and "fruitfulness" with that strange commute.
YELLOW: Cheer, hope, vitality, luminosity, enlightenment (mental and spiritual), communication, expansion, optimism, philosophy, egoism, dishonesty, betrayal, cowardice
Verdict: I like these associations for the Yellow Line. I feel like there's a certain youth and naivete to it, vaguely business but also innocent and new. You've got that wonderful view over the Potomac as the train travels from L'Enfant to the Pentagon. There's the malls of Pentagon City. You've got a good stretch from northern Virginia to Chinatown to U Street. The Yellow Line strikes me as a beginning and one that fits with the educationally focused attributes mentioned above.
ORANGE: Energy, cheer, activity, enlightenment, hope, crassness
Verdict: Dude, maybe yeah on the last one ... but generally the Orange Line strikes me as very professional and straightforward. But perhaps the energy and cheer is there. The Orange Line did receive attention for all the romantic missed connections that emerged, as I recall.