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Research on visual communications has revealed that different shapes have different connotations in the human brain, with the ability to amplify an intended message to a target audience. The shape of your logo actually communicates the essence of your business, which is something that big brands leverage to invoke the right feeling. Since the shape of your logo can influence customer perception, your logo can actually tell customers if you are friendly or serious, scientific or artistic, traditional or cutting edge. Not to mention, the shape of your logo can help you strengthen your brand identity, enhance recall, instill trust in audience and ensure customer loyalty, and foster meaningful connections with your target audience.
To help you understand how the psychology of shapes can affect your logo design, here’s a crash course on the attributes associated with basic shapes:
The absence of corners make logo a softer shape. A circle has no beginning and no ending, which is why it is all-encompassing and welcoming. In the design world, circles are often associated with femininity, and are commonly used to invoke the feelings of security, continuity, and protection. Logo designers leverage rounded shapes to convey gentleness, light-heartedness, friendliness, approachability, and inclusivity. Overall, circles embody positivity and optimism; in short, all the attributes that attract people. Some big-shot brands with circular logos include Nivea, LG, Pepsi, Tide, AT&T, Adidas, Olympics, Nasa, Mastercard, HP, Target, BMW, and Pinterest.
As opposed to circular shapes, triangles are all about sharp and abrupt corners, and what do corners signify: precision, stability, dependability! It doesn’t come as a surprise that triangles are often associated with control and ingenuity, as well as mysticism, enlightenment, and the arts. Some psychologists believe that triangles are often associated with masculine attributes, such as science, religion and power, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that triangles are the highlight in the logos of companies whose products have a masculine bias! The most interesting thing about this shape is that it can be positioned differently for creating different effects. For instance, a triangle with the tip pointing upward, exudes stability and power, while a downward pointed triangle communicates movement and motion. Some famous brands that have used this shape in interesting ways include Mitsubishi Motors, Delta, WB, Adidas, Reebok, Atari, Adobe, CAT, Qantas, and HSBC.
You must see a lot of squares and rectangles in modern logo design, and for a good reason. Squares are often used to denote equality, stability, balance, reliability, and conformity. The concrete corners and edges of these shapes offer your logo a sense of balance and endpoint, something impossible to achieve with circles. Before you pass these shapes off as being too boring or commonplace, remember that some of the biggest brands use these shapes since they give off a feeling of safety, dependability, and trust. Especially if you are looking to build a rapport with your target audience, using these shapes will inevitably send the right message. Think BBC, GAP, American Express, National Geographic, Dominoes, Legos, 7-Eleven, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Dropbox, Instagram, Adobe, Marvel, Cartoon Network and IKEA.
Lines have been used since time immemorial to convey messages. In modern logo design, vertical lines symbolize power, strength, dominance, masculinity, and superiority. Vertical lines are often used by businesses that want to represent power, progress and rising-up. On the other hand, horizontal lines have a much more placating effect, which is why they depict communication, a sense of community, calmness and patience, as well as a sense of movement and purpose. For instance, Spotify, a music listening app, leverages horizontal lines in their logo to communicate speed and connectivity. Similarly, Cisco Systems’ logo comprises its name with electromagnetic waves on top. Some famous brands that include lines in their logos include IBM, DHL, Spotify, Cisco, Soundcloud, Formula 1, Bumble, and Viracon.
Organic shapes take creativity to a whole new level with images and designs that take inspiration from nature, without conforming to shapes and geometric discipline. It’s not uncommon to see naturally occurring elements, from vehicles, to food, animals and even human faces. Look at how the Disney logo takes after the actual shape of the Disney Park and goes at great lengths to show the child-appropriateness of its content. In another example, Patagonia, leverages a mountain landscape as the backdrop for its wordmark logo. The mountains are used to convey adventure and natural beauty, and actually tell the viewer that it is an outdoor adventure brand!
Before jumping down to the designing part, jot down the values and attributes that your logo should convey. You can check out your mission statement for inspiration or simply make a list of corporate values that you hold dear. Not to mention it is also important to determine who your target market is and what message you want to convey to them. Keeping the psychology of shapes in mind, choose a shape that can best embody the message your logo needs to disseminate. Remember how straight lines, circles, edged shapes, spirals, curves and jagged edges all imply different meanings. As a designer, you can leverage different shapes intelligently to infer particular qualities about the brand. Secondly, your chosen logo shape should also complement your choice of font and color. As with any design, you cannot base any decision on a single element. When creating your design, take all factors into consideration to ensure a coherent brand identity that shines.
In the infographic below, we will explore different logo shapes and how they are perceived by the consumers. You will learn how to harness the power of shapes to design a modern logo design that stands on its own: