Behind the Shapes: What Do They Mean?

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We see shapes every day, we walk past them on our commute to work, they surround children in classrooms, they are everywhere we go, yet we are completely oblivious to them. I don’t blame people for not admiring every shape they see otherwise they’d never get to work, however, it’s not a bad idea to think about the use of shapes and the meaning they convey to us.

When considering all types of shapes there are 3 main categories to consider; organic, abstract and geometric shapes. Organic shapes are those that can be found in nature, ones that are free and aren’t so organised like rocks or clouds. Abstract shapes are very similar to organic shapes but differ because of their lack of definition. However, geometric shapes are completely different to these 2, with structure and symmetry, geometric shapes are ones that you’ve been taught from a young age.

Shapes have always been a focal point of any design, whether it’s for a new iPhone or for a school flyer, shapes are vital when creating. One of the main aims of any design is to engage your audience, and that’s what shapes can give you the ability to do. There have been numerous trends over the years in design, however, what has been noticeable is that each niche has its own meaning. Technology is currently obsessed with curves conveying a luxurious feel. Whereas, charities are using simple geometric shapes in advertising to send a strong and powerful message.

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Different shapes have different meanings and it’s important to understand them individually. A shape that’s become recently fashionable and commonly used in digital work is circles. What’s interesting about circles is that they have a different meaning to each person, it depends on how they interpret it. Circles can suggest a sense of infinity and love as well as being complete. The circle is said to also have some feminine connotations.

Squares and rectangles are as basic as it gets, it’s probably the first shape you learn as a kid, but it’s also one of the most relevant and subtle shapes in design. Rectangles and squares are regarded as much of default shape, creating a sense of confidence and stability. It’s mostly websites that are recognised for their use of rectangles, either they use a single rectangle or combine multiple rectangles to segment sections of their website.

They’re not exactly traditional shapes but crosses and spirals are now heavily used in design. Crosses have mostly been associated with religion, however, have recently been a sign of hope and balance. Spirals are free-flowing and allow any designer to let their creative juices flow, they symbolise freedom and transformation. Spirals have the ability to grow in any direction giving a sense of adventure and choice of path to go down.

Shapes in design can be so much more than a design, they can mean something to your audience, they can allow your audience to connect and relate with your message. Most design projects use shapes in a way that you don’t even really see, so maybe next time you’re at a platform, take a look at the adverts and think about what they really mean.