The Meaning of Shapes In Graphic Designing & How To Use Them

October 29, 2020 | 0 min read


Logos, before being symbols and brand representations, are first graphic designs or simply, shapes in design. As some really well-generated and thought-of pieces of graphic design, they tend to even act as the very identity and face of the brand. If you look at LV, you immediately know it is Louis Vuitton; you look at a tick, you know it is Nike. That is the power of a well-thought-of and well-curated graphic design

The very concept or the very art of graphic design is about communicating with the audiences not in the form of text or words, but in the form of visuals. A graphic design uses symbols, shapes, colors and layouts to speak volumes with just an image- void of any text on it whatsoever.

Shapes In Graphic Designing 1

While for designers that use words to represent or communicate an idea, it could be rather easy to put their point forward. Words are very straightforward. However, when it comes to designs, the matters are not as simple and uncomplicated. Shapes and designs have an intrinsic meaning attached to them. When you see a design in a particular shape, your brain automatically tends to associate it to a meaning that you might not even be aware of.

When you see a circle, a square, a rectangle, an abstract shape, a symbol they all tend to elicit meaning in the viewer’s brain. And hence, when you, as a graphic designer or even as just a person interested in designing, use shapes in your design, you need to use the shapes strategically in order to ensure that you communicate the right meaning. 

To make the job a tad bit easier for you, here are some tips and elaborated meaning behind shapes in design that can help you create the most phenomenal graphic designs-

Shapes in Design: The Shape of Circles in Graphic Design

Circle is one of the most popular, sought-after and go-to shapes for graphic designers. A human eye, by virtue of how it naturally functions, tends to follow the lines in a design. A circle, however, as you know, has no lines- it in fact is one line that never ends. Hence, the meaning of a circle essentially is a shape that represents movement as well as completeness at once. In designs, circles are used when the motive is to depict unity and protection. Hence, circles come off as a ‘friendly’ design so to say, also why they are used in most logos designs. There is no stopping for circles!

The Shape of Circles in Graphic Design

Shapes in Design: The Shape of Spirals in Graphic Design

Talking of a human eye being attracted and drawn lines, having a tendency of following lines, spiral as shape takes that concept to another level.  The spiral maximizes the concept of following lines in a design and creates a hypnotic effect for the viewers, attracting them to the design and keeping their attention intact. Spirals,  however, if not used or understood well, can also go very wrong in the design. The shape of a spiral is a busy shape and they also compete with any other element you may want to include in a design. Hence, it is best to use spirals as standalone if the purpose is to create something that is visually appealing and easygoing.

The Shape of Spirals in Graphic Design

Shapes in Design: The Shapes of Squares and Rectangles in Graphic Design

Squares and rectangles, as shapes, give off a strong structural stability. They are very well-defined, well-measured, well-made shapes. For this very reason, rectangles and squares are widely used for designs that are associated with logic, calculation, professionalism, finances, business, and basically, for anything that needs to be taken rather seriously. The clear cut straight lines of rectangles and squares make them a big no-no for fun designs. The only way for a designer to make squares and rectangles interesting and fun if need be, however, is by playing with the angles of these shapes and making a hybrid by-product thereof.

The Shapes of Squares and Rectangles in Graphic Design

Shapes in Design: The Shapes of Triangles and Arrows in Graphic Design

Triangles and arrows, being shaper images, are a little bit more tricky than other shapes. These shapes change their entire meaning and symbolism on the basis of which side they face; meaning, if they are directed upwards, left, right, downwards, or otherwise. For example, the simple, basic rectangle that looks upwards symbolizes unity, stability and trust. The point, or the sharp edge, being on top and drawing the eye to the top, signifies success, leadership, growth, and all things positive. However, by the same logic, when the triangle is inverted, the meaning changes to risk, tension, loss, and everything dark and negative. 

The Shapes of Triangles and Arrows in Graphic Design

Shapes in Design: The Shapes of Sharp Edges vs Curved Edges in Graphic Design

Except for circles, every shape has edges that could be sharp or curved. By the rule of the optics, the eye follows the lines in design, and hence, pointy/sharp edges create more movement than curved/non-pointy edges. Hence, by default, shapes with pointy edges create more attractive and attention-grabbing visuals than designs that do not have sharp edges. While pointy edges are more stirring, flatter edges are much calmer and aesthetic to look at. Curved edges and rounded corners (like that of a circle) also strike a great balance and designs by virtue of their playful properties as against serious, boring properties of shape like that of the rectangle for example. 

The Shapes of Sharp Edges vs Curved Edges in Graphic Design

Shapes in Design: Symbolic and Abstract Shapes in Graphic Design

Symbols and shapes are widely used by companies across in pursuit of representation of messages via images. Common symbols and shapes are easy to understand; for example, we all already know that 5 stars put together mean excellence, a clock means time, etc. For a company like Twitter, with a bird as a symbol in their logo, it is justified that the bird is symbolic of passing on messages.  But when it comes to abstract shapes, however, it is all not that easy and straightforward. With abstract shapes, one needs to be first clear in their head about the individual aspects that go behind the overall shape; and you also need to retain some of those to be able to convey the symbolism from the original shape.

Symbolic and Abstract Shapes in Graphic Design

Like, for example, if you are to use half a circle and half a rectangle to create one abstract shape, you will come down to an image that is fun as well as serious. This is because of the intrinsic nature of the shape of a square and a circle as discussed before.

Final Thoughts-

Graphic Designing and generating images is a job; while, undeniably, it course also is a lot of fun. We say responsible because for a graphic designer, to be able to generate images that really make a difference and are phenomenal, you need to understand the usual meaning of organic shapes in graphic design. Blog articles like such could serve as a quick  reference and brushing up, however it is only once you experiment after understanding the basics, broaden your horizons, and exploit your creativity is when you achieve the excellence of a true designer! 



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