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Everything we see is composed of shapes, and their meaning fundamentally influences our understanding of how shapes function in the world.
Since they are so common, most visual artists begin learning how to draw by constructing or dissecting images into fundamental geometry. Yet, shapes serve as more than just useful, functional tools; they also serve as a means by which designers can convey ideas graphically.
You will ultimately need to start sketching, whether you are making a wallpaper pattern for a new site design or brainstorming ideas for a new product’s packaging. Whichever form you begin to take, it will significantly impact your audience.
When it involves web design, shapes have more to them than meets the eye. Shapes are potent design components that significantly contribute to developing visual identity.
In this post, we’ll go through the many sorts of shapes and how to use them in graphic design so that you can learn more about how you can leverage the psychology of shapes in format to produce a more meaningful design. First, though, we need to grasp the meaning of the psychology of shapes.
Table of Contents
The psychology of shapes is a branch of science that examines how shapes affect humans.
People’s perception of shapes causes a variety of psychological effects. Each evokes distinct feelings, ideas, and experiences that hit home in our brains—the viewers’ brains.
Forms are the primary component of graphic design. By selecting shapes that elicit a want reaction, designers can affect how viewers feel about the design and what they think the shapes represent.
It means that we can use these shapes to convey a variety of emotions to the viewer. Although people may not notice these shapes immediately, they will feel and act differently after seeing them.
Graphic designers can use these elements to further a message they are trying to convey through their design. In this situation, clever and accomplished designers are utterly aware of their work’s impact and how it can vary depending on factors like age, sex, religion, and social preferences.
Each form has a unique meaning and varied effect on the viewer’s thinking. This process is known as the psychology of shapes, and it is not an accident. Since many years ago, specialists have researched how various shapes can impact people’s behavior and determine the viewer’s persona.
Shapes can also be used by designers to add curiosity and arrange content in a visually pleasing way, drawing attention to the critical areas of a website. In addition, shapes can clearly convey a brand’s mission, identity, and objectives, ultimately increasing conversion rates.
All design directions require shapes as essential components. They can be used to split or link together design elements into groups, organize content, or form parts of a visual composition.
Web designers must take into account the significance of shapes and how they affect users’ minds while creating advanced designs.
For the purpose of designing user-friendly interfaces, understanding the psychology of shapes is crucial. Let’s examine the significance of various psychology of shapes and how they affect design choices. There are three major types of shapes, namely:
When most people hear the word “shape,” they immediately think of geometrical shapes. People see several geometric shapes daily, such as squares, circles, and rectangles. But what do they really mean?
These are the most basic and typical forms out there. In general, geometric shapes are homogeneous and made up of straight lines and curves. Here are some instances of websites that express their brand identity and personality through the use of geometric shapes.
They include shapes such as straight and curved lines, circles and ovals, triangles, and quadrilaterals. Let us dive into details of the different types of geometrical shapes to understand the psychology of shapes better.
You really need to walk the line between angular and curvy when it comes to line work. Although lines are the fundamental building block of all artwork, logos and site designs that primarily rely on linework are everything but straightforward.
Generally speaking, people favor curved lines over straight ones.
The neurophysiology of the visual system can be responsible for this. Even young children with immature vision will give curved forms more attention than crisp, angular ones.
Curves won’t necessarily lengthen when a user pays attention to your design. Sharp angles are more likely to grab your users’ attention immediately. Sharp lines and angles signify seriousness and simplicity, while curves denote softness and complexity.
According to studies, angular items might make people feel threatened. It has been demonstrated that sharpness in forms stimulates the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing fear.
Because of this, acute angles frequently grab your audience’s attention and attract the eye more rapidly than their curved counterparts.
Using these typical human response patterns, you may produce graphics that evoke strong emotions in your audience.
Curved lines can aid in breaking up text blocks on websites and add a whimsical feel for entertaining, playful brands. However, sharp angles and straight lines will help convey a sense of gravity for more somber brand personalities.
When your audience sees a circle, they think of openness and community. Round shapes can also evoke sentiments of belonging or security, such as a warm hug or feeling secure in your shell. Circles can also represent love, camaraderie, femininity, and rebirth.
If you refer to someone as a square, you likely imply that they are uninteresting. The converse would imply that circles represent enjoyment, youth, and a careless attitude.
It seems logical that babies favor circular toys as their attention has been demonstrated to stick around longer for curved lines.
The emotions of individuals react favorably to shapes with circular lines. People subconsciously associate community, friendliness, and love with circular lines in logo designs.
The shape of an oval or circle connotes robustness, endurance, and stability, which explains why many automakers, including Ford, have an oval-shaped logo.
Triangles are powerful geometric shapes that denote momentum and direction and focus the viewer’s attention on a particular page region. Depending on where they are placed, triangles might signify opposite things.
The triangle represents strength, stability, and vitality when it is pointed up. On the other hand, when it points downward, it becomes shaky and can suggest stress or conflict.
Triangles in design are useful for these sectors because they convey strength and dependability.
Triangles are a simple way to depict motion, acceleration, and equilibrium. These are dynamic, strong shapes that can arouse a range of feelings, from exhilaration to caution.
Triangles have meaning, and how they are oriented is crucial since it affects how your customer will interpret them.
A triangle pointing upward, for instance, can demonstrate strength, but if it is tilted even slightly askew, it can demonstrate instability. Yet, numerous triangles pointing in a variety of directions might convey amusement or excitement—much like confetti!
World-renowned for its mining and construction equipment is Caterpillar. The brand uses CAT as the shortened name, which is held up by a wide-based triangle in its logo, actively conveying dependable structural integrity.
A quadrilateral is any form with four sides. The most typical examples are squares and rectangles, although trapezoids, diamonds, and a few other shapes are also represented.
Rectangles and squares are frequently used to signify consistency, stability, or clearness. Visually, their straight angles imply reason, structure, and order.
Brands that wish to appear practical or grounded utilize squares and rectangles. Squares and rectangles are popular—especially for logos—across a wide range of sectors.
Other quadrilateral shapes will also express these feelings of consistency, albeit in a more avant-garde, modern way. Because we unconsciously associate diamonds with luxury or high-end goods, their shape can be used to express these ideas.
Without using overused patterns, quadrilaterals like kites and rhombuses are excellent for implying a degree of stability.
The most common forms in online design are squares and rectangles, particularly when used as a base or frame to simplify complex web designs. They are typically employed to arrange items and data on a page.
Grids, squares, and rectangles give off an air of stability, dependability, and security. They are frequently utilized for call-to-action buttons and navigation bars.
For instance, the BBC logo employs the square to enclose and safeguard the brand and the bold to convey a sense of power and tenacity. A square or rectangular feature in your branding may be appropriate if your company deals with financial or with sensitive information.
Crosses are formed when two rectangles or lines cross, but they can also be formed by two triangles, circles, or ovals coming together.
Crosses, which have long represented the convergence of divine powers, still have their religious connotations but also connote healing and harmony, making them an ideal choice for branding with a medical theme.
Crosses can represent intersections or encounters in photographs, enhancing the sensation of motion and engagement.
This collection of shapes is called “polygons” in math and design. Every 2D geometric object with five sides or more is called a polygon under the general term.
These shapes can be found everywhere in nature, including in honeycombs, shell patterns, crystals, and rock formations. However, its application in web design is less common.
These may benefit your customers because they will help distinguish you from mainstream design trends.
Polygons, which are intricate and futuristic, are frequently employed to provide a modern, current, yet still well-structured air. Nonetheless, specific polygons are commonly utilized in specialized businesses.
For instance, organizations that manufacture and repair automobiles and machines frequently include hexagons and octagons in their designs because they resemble a bolt’s head.
Polygons are closed geometric figures with a minimum of three sides and angles. They can be basic, predictable, or unpredictable.
The polygons with more than four sides that are most frequently employed because they are the most adaptable for making visuals are pentagons, hexagons, and octagons.
You can employ these complex geometric patterns to draw the viewer’s eyes and instantly grab their attention.
Natural shapes are those shapes that have a resemblance to natural items such as flowers, stars, leaves, butterflies, etc.
They are erratic or asymmetrical and frequently represent coziness, harmony, and likeability. Websites that emphasize the outdoors or the surroundings can use organic shapes.
Mother Nature designed everything with a distinct shape. For painters and designers, inspiration comes from leaves, flowers, trees, animals, and other flora and fauna. Natural forms clearly denote the plants and animals that they represent.
They frequently impart a sense of renewal and harmony with the surrounding environment. Animals and plants can also have unique traits and symbols of their own.
A lion is a sign of pride and bravery, while a rose is a blossom of love and passion, but this is another subject altogether. Natural forms are frequently linked to uniqueness, organicity, balance, and refreshment.
The natural shapes have an air of renewal and togetherness about them. Also, various animals and plants have unique personalities and physical characteristics. A lion is a representation of pride and bravery, while a rose is a symbol of love and passion.
Some of the natural forms in the psychology of shapes include:
Curves provide the website design with a sense of movement that calms and relaxes the observer.
Curves draw visitors to explore the page by being fluid and smooth without straining the eyes. Web designers can use curves to create a sophisticated, fashionable, modern interface.
An example of a brand that uses swoosh is the famous Nike. The swoosh appears like a checkmark and represents accomplishment or, in other words, “Just do it.”
Spirals and loops can be challenging since they elicit mystery and dread while embodying perfection, beauty, and composition. These forms represent innovation, expansion, and change.
Spirals can be found in whirlpools, galaxies, tornadoes, the swirling inside of seashells, and rose petals, among other dynamic natural phenomena. Loops and spirals, when used in the psychology of shapes have a creative, exciting, and motion-like quality.
Spirals are frequently connected with transitions like life, death, birth, and change and can feel either vast or all-consuming based on whether the shape’s flow is interpreted as spreading outwards or receding inwards.
They greatly animate the website’s look and can quickly pique visitors’ interest.
Stars are organic objects that can be utilized to express significance or accomplishment. Stars are frequently linked to accolades, accomplishments, and awards.
Human beings have always drawn inspiration from the universe. The star is a universally recognized symbol that connotes many fantastic ideas, including exploration, awe, success, brilliance, and escape.
Take, for instance, Carl’s Jr. star logo, which is not only adorable, but it’s also incredibly welcoming. This star stands out among the others; it cannot be denied.
Typically, they are simplified approximations of natural shapes or abstract notions represented visually. Because they are stylized and only minor elements provide a clue as to what they are, some abstract shapes can be too challenging to identify.
Frequently, one abstract shape can have literal and figurative interpretations. In graphic design, it is commonly employed, particularly for logos and icons. Without text, abstract shapes are a quick and efficient method to communicate.
They primarily communicate a twofold meaning, originality and elaborateness. Yet, when adopting the psychology of shapes, consider that each component still has the connotation of the original design. They include:
Arrows are typically utilized for communicating instructions and directions efficiently. They make it easier for the visitor to follow the informational flow from one area of your image to another.
There are various arrow designs and types. While wavy arrows can provide a humorous element to your design and concentric arrows can be utilized to highlight cycles and processes, bold, solid ones convey more strength.
Check marks are frequently used on landing pages of websites as symbols and icons. These are also the finest icons to utilize to create a neat, well-organized look for a list.
Symbols and icons are abstract shapes that reflect real-world objects and can have more profound symbolism. They are widely used in the psychology of shapes to rapidly and effectively express messages through visual means.
In order to limit the quantity of text and draw the viewer’s attention to essential elements of the design, icons, and symbols are frequently used in infographic designs.
Nevertheless, one must be careful not to overdo icons because doing so might overwhelm and confuse readers.
Verisign is an example of a brand that uses a checkmark for its designs. The check mark forms the letter V on a blue background surrounded by a substantial white and gray gradient frame. A triangle is removed from the right-most portion of the segmented “V’s” bar.
Emojis are text-sized images that represent a variety of feelings and ideas. Use them to create amusing website designs to draw in the younger market, which favors instant messaging.
Emojis that are bright, silly, and straightforward convey a much less professional look than long, dense texts do. Emojis must, however, be used in the appropriate context to be effective. Using them excessively or too firmly may turn off your viewers.
These shapes are frequently used in navigational programs and websites like Google Maps. Use personalized pin drops to give your visuals and maps a lively flair.
Basic shapes are more than just kid-friendly toys; they are valuable tools designers should know how to employ.
You run the danger of missing out on the communicational potential of shapes and unintentionally creating messages and meanings inconsistent with your design’s goals if you ignore their significance.
The initial step involves comprehending the significance of shapes. It takes time and practice to use form meanings consistently, quietly, and successfully along with all the other design components.
Create a “call-to-action button” that prompts the audience to take action. You must carefully evaluate the button’s shape; a square button’s rounded corners will draw attention to the content, whereas an angular button will draw attention to the surrounding area.
For one to elicit reactions from the audience, visual perception is crucial. Reacting to angles requires a more aggressive cognitive effort than responding to spherical features.
The applications of the psychology of shapes in graphic design are then straightforward. As a designer and marketer, you must be able to coordinate color, typeface, and shape to portray a design that flawlessly imitates the responses of your target audience.
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