How to use the psychology of shapes in your branding

Just as colour can affect our mood, so to can shapes… Shapes are around us and in everything that we see. But did you realise that we subconsciously connect emotions to shapes? In fact, shapes evoke certain emotions. For example, shapes with rounded edges are softer and more approachable, while shapes with sharp lines and edges, depict strength and resilience.

The most obvious shapes that come to mind are squares, rectangles, triangles, diamonds, circles and ovals. These shapes are easily identified and have been given names. The shapes with straight lines and angles usually symbolise structure and order, while the shapes with curves are softer and represent connection and community.

Natural or organic shapes

Natural or organic shapes are by nature irregular and more often than not curved or uneven. Like most things in nature, these tend to be comforting and approachable. Represented in the shapes of feathers, clouds, flowers, leaves and rocks, they are mainly nature based, but can be man-made with elements such as paint blobs or free drawing that are created through spontaneity.

Abstract shapes

Abstract shapes are recognisable in form, however are essentially not real as they are simplified versions of organic shapes. To give you an example, icons are abstract shapes that represent concepts and ideas, a stick figure is an abstract shape of a person etc.

Squares and rectangles

Did you know that the rectangle is the most used area shape in logo design? The reason for its popularity is because it is a trusted familiar shape that represents stability, honesty and solidity. Squares and rectangles have straight lines and right angles so they are perceived as balanced and mathematical. These shapes scream rational thinking, practicality and conformity. As far as shapes go, squares and rectangles are neither flashy nor attention seekers – some may even venture to say that they are boring, however clever designers may twist or turn them to add interest to a design.

Interesting fact: all websites and newspapers are made up on a grid pattern using rectangles and squares. The eye reads theses shapes easily which is why most text is contained within these shapes.

Triangles

Triangles are fascinating as they can be viewed differently depending on if their sides are equal or different in length, whether they are sitting on their base or on a point. Triangles have energy and power associated with them as they can point out direction, depending on where their base is placed. Triangles can give a feeling of action, tension or even aggression. On the one hand, they can symbolise strength while on the other, conflict.

Triangles are seen as more of a masculine shape. Power, progression, purpose and direction are all represented by the triangle. We see triangles in pyramids and arrows, not to mention their religious connections especially to the holy trinity.

Circles and ovals

Rounded shapes tend to send a positive emotional message of harmony and protection. The circle is often used in a logo to represent unity, commitment, love or community. Curves in general, when used in shapes, tend to be viewed as feminine in nature while straight lined shapes are more masculine.

Circles have no beginning or end, they represent life and the lifecycle. The circle along with the oval is readily found in nature with the sun, moon and earth, as well as fruit and flowers.

Circles have a free sense of movement which can be seen in wheels, balls and merry-go-rounds. This connection to movement can also represent energy.

Due to their curved lines, ovals and circle are graceful and complete. They give a sense of integrity and perfection.

They are not used as much in design for spatial reasons, but when they are used, that can attract more attention than their right-angled counterparts.

Are you using the right type of shape in your logo to subconsciously represent your brand in the correct light? Are you choosing the right type of fonts to match these shapes? For example, more rounded fonts will reflect and echo the circular shapes while boxy fonts reflect squares and rectangles.

Shapes are all around us. How are you going to make yours count?

 

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Debbie O'Connor
Debbie is a brand strategist by profession and graphic designer by trade, author of a children’s book and active entrepreneur. She is the founder of multi award winning creative studio White River Design (WRD).

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