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Have you ever wondered why the 'M' in the McDonald's logo has curved ends or why the Nike Swoosh has such a dynamic line? Why is the Delta logo so angular while the Starbucks logo confines its lines to circular?

The thought has probably never crossed your mind if you are the average Joe. But, unfortunately, graphic designers always have these sorts of wild ideas. It's what makes them 'different.' However, it also makes them creative and able to design insightful communications. The fact is that while not many people give importance to the shapes, angles, and lines used to create their design (logo or other), in the end, the form of the design can influence the emotions of an audience in subtle ways.


Experiences designers will understand not only the color psychology and the science of choosing fonts but also the psychological dimensions of the shape. Of course, many people will laugh outright at such a statement but know.


To a client, a square button on the website can have a curved contour or an angular one; it makes no difference. They will not even notice the contours (more focused on the images or color). Nevertheless, the shape is essential to influencing the target audience towards specific emotive reactions.


Buyer/Seller Insight Vs. Design Elements

The economics of a product or service is the essential facet for a buyer and seller. They are focused on the risk, the strategy, and the politics of a business cycle, even when they hire a designer to craft their logo, web design, or any other graphic design element. As psychologists are apt to say, they think with the left part of their brain. However, marketers and designers living in the 21st century have to be more versatile and feel with their brains' left and right hemispheres. They have to consider the buyer/seller's left brain needs and their emotive perceptions. The attitudes, behaviors, and socio-political influences must be regarded to guide the audience to take a specific action. The prominent elements are color, font, and images. On the other hand, shapes are also an influencing facet of influencing buyers and sellers.

Knowing how to permeate the sense from the nonsense within psychology will help you create a buyer's perspective to design.

Circular: Shapes with circular lines generate a positive response within the emotional response centers of a person. When people see a circular line within a logo design, they unconsciously relate it to community, friendship, and love. In addition, the oval and circle suggest sturdiness, endurance, and stability, which is why many car companies like Ford, Toyota, and Mercedes have a logo enveloped in the shape of an oval and circle.


Ellipses tend to evoke a sentiment of support and innovation, and brands like Oakley and others take advantage of this by portraying their logos using ellipses. Rings project partnership and unity, and symbols like that of the Olympics and Audi amplify this emotion. In addition, the use of specific colors can create a powerful message. For example, the Audi logo is silver, which suggests sophistication and elegance along with endurance and unification of lifestyles.

Examples of brand identity logos that use circles.

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Angular: Shapes and straight-edged lines found in squares, rectangles, and triangles suggest professionalism, efficiency, and stability, appealing to the left brain of the audience. They create a balance of practicality and, if combined with colors like red and blue, can evoke a perception of dynamic modernization. Financial logos, banks, and real estate firms use this to create logos (Chase) that define stability and practicality.


The use of squares and rectangles in graphic design creates a perception of power and strength. Combine that with rounded contours, and you have a sense of balance and reliability. Precision, efficiency, and humane values are depicted in design simply by using a shape. Triangles and Pyramids are associated with scientific and religious theories. The use of triangles within design work well for industries within these fields as it creates a sense of power and reliability.

Examples of angular (Squares and Triangular) shaped brand identity logos.

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Linear: It's astounding to realize that even the direction of a line can impact the audience's perception. Maybe not so impressive when the visual impact is considered (vertical lines on clothing make you look taller and slimmer).


Vertical lines impact the mind by subconsciously associating aggression and masculinity. Conversely, vertical lines suggest strength and sophistication.


On the other hand, horizontal lines create a sense of calmness and Zen tranquility. They project a natural sense of balance that can be used to influence audiences.


Angled Lines represent a feeling of energy and dynamic movement. Using an arrow to show direction and implementing a check within a design creates a dynamic response in people who can be rapid and energetic.


On the other hand, curved lines have a more feminine reaction suggesting happiness, generosity, and a sense of rhythm. They evoke pleasure and, used with some angular lines, can present a sense of innovation like the Nike logo (swoosh).


Consider this; you know that the color red suggests energy and anger. You utilize that emotive reaction and combine the color with a curved and cursive typeface, which softens the response and decreases the aggressive appeal. The softly rounded letters appeal more to the women while the color red attracts the aggressive male—a perfect balance.


You want to design a 'call to action button' that makes the audience react. You have to carefully consider the shape of a button; the contoured curved corners of a square button will make people focus on the content, while the angular edges will cause the audience to focus on it.


The audience is genetically engineered to react unfavorably to sharp edges in psychological terms called the primordial reaction and seen as threatening (think knife).


Visual perception is vital in evoking reactions in the audience. The cognitive effort to react to angles is more aggressive than when reacting to rounded contours. Surprisingly, the "eye" responds fast to circular shapes than angular ones.


The implications of using shape psychology then become simple. First, as a designer and marketer, you must coordinate color, typeface, and shape to project a design that perfectly emulates your audience's reactions.



Words, feelings, and moods associated with shapes:


  • Circular: Tenderness - Love - Friendship - Care - Support - Protection - Affection - Compassion.

  • Squares, rectangles, triangles, and pyramids: Stability - Strength - Power - Balance – Reliability

  •  Vertical shapes and lines: Strength - Masculinity - Power - Aggression - Courage - Brutality - Dominate – Menacing

  • Horizontal lines: Tranquility - Feminine - Calm - Rest - Weak - Peaceful - Composed - Silent - Still - Nonmenacing

  • Soft curves: Rhythm - Movement - Happiness - Pleasure - Generosity – Femininity

  • Sharp angled lines: Energy - Lively - Young - Explosive - Violent - Anger - Rapidity - Dynamic – Movement.

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