The Use of Shape in Design and The Messages They Convey

The Use of Shape in Design and The Messages They Convey


Are you a designer? I bet you must be working with shapes all the time, right? As one of the elements of design, shapes play a powerful role in communication. You can mix them, match them and combine them to create eye catching designs.

Besides shape, there are 6 other components of design, which are: line, color, texture, value (light or dark/ the appearance of an area), space and size. Each component has its own use and purpose. By combining these 7 components of design you can create emotion, depth, lead the eye, emphasize a message, attract attention and much more.

I want to share with you how you can use shape as one of the main components of design. I’ll share about what is shape, type of shapes and the meaning of (some) shapes. Hope it can benefit you in understand more about shapes and in relation of its usage on design.

There are three basic types of shapes:
Geometric: The geometric shapes are the one that people usually think about. They have a consistent structure. Examples of geometric shapes include: circle, diamond, hexagon, trapezium, rectangle, etc.
Natural: Natural shapes are more random. Often they don’t have structure. It is free form and usually taken from the nature surround us. This can be from things like rocks, clouds, leaves, people, trees, the moon, etc.
Abstract: Abstract shapes play an important part of modern design. Examples of abstract shapes include: icons, graphic and representations.

Speaking of the meaning of shapes. For this article there are three shape that I’ll focused on, which are: circles, squares, and triangles (all are geometrical type shapes). I have chosen them because they are the most commonly used components of design.

Circles, like when you combine them and create the number 8, have no start and end. The shape has strong cultural associations and encompass concepts like eternity, unity and also harmony. This shape is usually seen as warm and comforting.

Use circles in your design if you would like to also speak about community, connections and also love.

Squares and rectangles speak of certainty. If you want to speak about equality, to be trusted and of course want to speak about things being in order and bonding with each other, squares and rectangles can be a good option.

Triangles,because they can be symmetrical and non symmetrical, are used to represent things that are dynamic. Use this shape if you want to be seen as having direction, action, masculinity and energy.

So what about how people interpret natural and abstract shapes?

Natural shapes are usually more pleasing and comforting. Everything is in close relation to nature, which is why it has become so popular with architects recently. Natural shapes convey the feeling of spontaneousness. Meanwhile abstract shapes usually convey a more universal, neutral message.

As always, if you are designing, simple is best. Keep your background clean when you are using shape(s). Play with the opacity to make the sense of light. Don’t play with too many shapes in one design otherwise you might loose the message that you want to convey.

Do you use shape(s) in your design? Remember, shapes can be either positive or negative. Share with me in the comment below how you think shapes can influence design?