Shape Psychology in Graphic Design

Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Full Guide

Shapes are a Fundamental part in Graphic Design and we are surrounded by them as all the visual objects we see can be perceived as shapes or combination of shapes, and we can use these shapes to transmit different feelings to the viewer as people may not notice these shapes directly but they have an important impact on their feelings and behavior and we as graphic designers can use these elements to reinforce a message through our design.

During many years many experts have studied how different shapes can affect people behavior and identify their personality as every shape has his own meaning and influence differently to the viewers mind, this is called psychology of shapes and on this post I will show you the different types of shapes, their attributes and how to use them in Graphic Design.


Geometric Shapes in Graphic Design

Since we were kids we already have learned what are Geometric shapes and they are the simplest and most common shapes in graphic design, and geometric shapes are formed by combining a specific amount of curves, points and lines. Due their anatomy most geometric shapes are symmetrical and we can identify them easily. Let’s see some of the most common geometric shapes we can find in graphic design.

geometric shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Guide

Squares and Rectangles Meaning

Squares and rectangles are the most common shapes in graphic design projects and we also can see them very easily in live everyday in street signs, shops signs or sheet of paper, and these types of shapes are the most common in design layouts as social media headers, social media posts or business cards.

Square shapes are formed by straight lines and right angles that give viewers a sense of reliability and security and these attributes make people feel safe and contained.

Common Square Shapes Meaning

  • Strength
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Discipline
Square and Rectangle shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Guide

Triangle Shapes in Graphic Design

Triangle shapes is a polygon with three edges and three vertices, and it’s commonly defined as an energetic and dynamic shape, attributes that makes triangles used to represent motion and direction. Depending on the position of the triangle it can have different meanings, if the triangle is upright and pointing up it represent stability and balance, but if the position of the triangle is reversed it transmits risky feelings and instability.

Viewers eye automatically move to the top of the triangle due the line placement, due to this quality is very often to use skinny triangles as arrows or pointers to emphasize an important part from your design, and related to this quality if the triangle point is facing to the right it represent a moving forward symbol.

Common Triangles Shapes Meaning

  • Movement
  • Balance
  • Risk
  • Stability
Triangle shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Guide

Circles, ovals and ellipses Meaning

Circles unlike other geometric shapes don’t have angles, this fact makes these shapes softer and milder, and commonly they have represent the eternity due to they don’t have beginning or end. In Graphic Design circles have different uses depending on their purposes, for example in Logo Design they are the most common shape used for the logo background or outline, and in web design circle shapes are used for small icons.

Circular shapes are one of the most popular shapes for designers because they are very noticable and powerful graphic elements and because they nature they represent wholeness and completion and these attributes made them very useful shapes in any design project.

Common Circles shapes meaning

  • Eternity
  • Universe
  • Mystery
  • Earth, Moon or Sun
Circle shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Guide


Pentagons, Hexagons and Octagons in Design

Pentagons, hexagons and octagons are the most used polygon shapes in Graphic Design considering that polygons are not very often used in design projects due they complexity, but we can see polygon shapes to represent real elements from our daily lives in form of icons or logos, for example Street signs, sections of a beehive or bolts uses polygon shapes.

These polygons due their geometric nature are also used as puzzle pieces to create larger compositions and organize the information in your design, and are very common in infographic design.

Polygon shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Full Guide

Spirals in Graphic Design Works

Spiral shapes are very common in real live and nature elements as shells and flowers, and spiral shapes in graphic design are used to represent circle of life and growth.

Common Spiral shapes meaning

  • Growth
  • Intelligence
  • Creativity
  • Modernity

Natural or Organic Shapes Meaning

Natural shapes or organic shapes represent elements from nature and we can see them in real world as animals, flowers, trees or leaves, these shapes unlike geometric shapes aren’t formed by angles and points, they are unique you can see them in tones of different forms.

Unlike geometric shapes, natural shapes have a clear meaning from the natural elements they represent as for example a rose flower represent love or passion. Natural shapes due their nature also makes the viewer feel a connection with natural environment. These type of shapes are often used in outdoor or ecological design compositions.

Common Natural Shapes meaning

  • Originality
  • Nature
  • Organic
  • Freshness
  • Ecological
Natural and Organic shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Guide

Abstract Shapes in Graphic Design

Abstract shapes in graphic design are visual symbol that can be abstract ideas or simplified version of a organic shape, in some cases abstract shape can be difficult to associate with some ideas due to their abstract anatomy, and in some cases the idea is behind a small detail of the shape.

Abstract shapes can have figurative and direct meaning and these shapes are used very common in Logo Design because they are very effective way to create a unique look at the same time to transmit an idea through design, and if you want to learn more about logo design, you can check this post where I show you the qualities for a good logo design.

Abstract Shapes can have infinite meanings as they literally can represent anything in any way.

abstract shapes meaning Shape Psychology in Graphic Design Guide

Symbols and Icons Meaning

Symbols and icons are abstract shapes that represent real life things and can have higher symbolism,  and symbols and icons are really popular in graphic design to convey messages quickly in a visual way.

Icons and symbols are very popular in infographic design to reduce the amount of text and focus the viewer attention in key parts of the design, but when you use icons you need to take care to don’t overuse them because it can be overwhelming to viewers eye and confuse them.

Use Shapes to create Something Else

Once we already know what shapes are and the different types of them in Graphic Design, we can go to the next level and combine all these different shapes to create new visual elements and represent real life elements. For example you can create a house using rectangles, squares and triangles or by mixing different circular shapes we can create a bunch of grapes or by mixing a triangle with a rectangle shapes we can draw a house.


As a conclusion we already have learn how to use shapes in graphic design and the different types of them and shapes are a fundamental graphic design element which you can learn all of them in this blog post!.

Shapes play a crucial role in graphic design projects, icon design and most important logo design, where through shapes a brand will transmit you their goals, what they do and their philosophy, and if you want to learn more about logo design and how to use shapes correctly to create the best logo design I recommend you these 2 blog post: What makes a logo design good and 8 Different logo design types.


Shape Psychology in Graphic Design and Shapes Meaning Infographic

If you have found this Blog Post useful you might be interested on these other blog post about Graphic Design Inspiration.


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