What is the one thing that a chessboard, slice of bread and picture frame have in common? If you’re thinking about the answer, then you’ve already started to envision their silhouette. In fact, some of these objects might have elicited specific emotions. Obviously, the similarity is the fact that they all have a square shape.
Now, the human mind uses shapes as the building blocks of how it perceives different objects. It then assigns meanings to them based on these perceptions.
Taking this into account, one of the factors you should consider when designing your logo is shape. Not only does it determine the final look of the design, but it also influences how customers perceive your brand. Read on to learn more about the psychology of logo shapes.
The Psychology of Shapes
Several studies have shown that people respond differently based on shapes. In one survey, researchers discovered that consumers who prioritise competence like angular shapes. To echo this, a second study revealed that round shapes usually elicit a happy emotion.
An easier way to understand this concept is to consider two triangles. Although the triangles have similar sizes, one is upright while the other is upside down.
Naturally, the first one evokes a sense of stability while the latter conveys risk. Logo shapes are not any different. Below is a list of shapes and their respective meanings, so you can choose wisely:
Circle, Oval and Ellipse
A circular shape conveys wholeness and collaboration.
Brands that use round logos tend to be very welcoming with a sense of optimism and unity. Take the Pfizer logo for instance. The oval shape is similar to that of pharmaceutical tablets or pills. This helps to convey the message of healing and completeness.
On the same note, consider the Olympics logo. It comprises five overlapping rings of different colours. The circles represent the coming together of athletes from different parts of the world.
In some cases though, a round shape is used to symbolise progression, infinity and resilience. This is because the circular form is affiliated with planets, the sun or time in general.
Other brands opt for round, oval or ellipse shapes to symbolise femininity due to their curved forms. And the good thing is that most brands rarely use these sorts of shapes. So if you use it in your logo, you might be able to grab people’s attention faster.
Application: If you have a brand that focuses on unity, healing properties or time, a round-shaped logo might work well.
Square and Rectangle
While circles and ovals convey wholeness and unity, square and rectangular shapes symbolise steadiness and stability.
The 90-degree angles at the corners of these structures results in very edgy (pun intended) logo designs. Microsoft’s logo is the perfect example of a brand that uses a square logo to convey edginess.
Some brands also use these shapes to represent safety and reliability. In the same way that safes, homes and boxes – all of which are square-shaped- provide safekeeping, it’s the same way that logo designs evoke a sense of security.
One brand that uses this shape to convey this message is Dropbox. Its square logo gives a sense of security. This aligns with the brand’s core goal of protecting your files and folders.
Application: if your company is involved in handling sensitive information, such as those in the finance and news niches, then a square or rectangular logo is a great choice. Brands in the cleaning industry could also benefit from these logo shapes as they also portray a sense of order.
Like rectangular and square logos, triangular designs also stick out because of their angular structures.
Given their straight lines and razor-sharp angles, it’s hard to miss a logo with a triangle-shaped icon. And since they have fairly similar designs, they evoke the same feelings as their square counterparts.
But, there’s a slight difference when it comes to their meanings. While squares symbolise stability and order, triangle shapes represent power and energy. They are also used to relay creativity, edginess and mysticism.
One thing I love about this shape is that it offers flexible positioning. This makes it possible to experiment with different orientations and create playful designs.
Furthermore, you can convey a different meaning based on this orientation. For instance, an upright triangle portrays stability and momentum. However, an inverted triangle gives a sense of edginess, precision or its willingness to be daring/ innovative.
Application: there are two specific sectors that use triangular-shaped logos: science and religion. This makes sense as they help to convey facts (precision) or strong choices. You might also consider using this logo shape if your brand deals in alternative medicine or extreme sports.
Vertical and Horizontal Lines
If you don’t want to go with a traditional shape, using vertical or horizontal lines is an excellent alternative. Such patterns create more playful logo designs while evoking specific feelings in consumers.
Vertical lines, for instance, make your logo look thinner and taller and relay a sense of authority or advancement. Meanwhile, horizontal lines cause logos to appear wider. They symbolise peace, competence and community.
Application: a logo with horizontal lines works well for brands in the shipping or delivery industries. Conversely, vertical-lined logos are better for tech companies.
Some brand owners might not want to use regular shapes nor vertical/horizontal patterns. If this sounds like you, an abstract shape is your best bet.
This simply means blending several visual elements together to create a unique and conspicuous logo. Abstract shapes are great if you’re looking to relay different meanings or messages in a single design. Slack and Starbucks are some of the brands that use abstract shapes for their logos.
Application: You can use an abstract shape regardless of the niche you’re in. Just ensure that the final logo design communicates your brand’s message and identity effectively.
In a nutshell, the shape of your logo influences how your audience perceives you. A summary on some of the attributes associated with basic shapes:
- Circular shapes: Unity, community, friendship, stability, feminine
- Triangular shapes: Masculine, power, law, science
- Square shapes: Strength, efficiency, professionalism, practicality
- Vertical lines: Aggression, masculinity, strength, progress
- Horizontal lines: Calm, tranquility, community, speed
Choosing the right shapes to form your logo design is a vital step during the creative process, it lays the foundation for your brand’s messaging. Often the best logos manage to create a timeless design that is more than the sum of its parts. Combining all the aspects of a good logo—colours, fonts, and shapes—can deliver a final design that will convey your brand’s personality and values, while also leaving a lasting impression on anyone giving a glimpse at it.
Determine how these shapes will fit into your logo, and you’ll ultimately help your brand maximize its potential impact!