Shape Psychology in Business

Shape psychology is important for any business to keep in mind while creating their brand because it plays a significant role in how people view your company. The shapes you use will either work for or against your message, ideals, and quality of your products.

Color psychology is well understood by many individuals starting business, but shape psychology is an often overlooked sister that goes unutilized.

How Shape Psychology Affects Businesses

It’s worth noting that shape psychology applies to more than just branding and marketing. It’s just as important in product design and user experience.

Shapes affect the following:

Shape Psychology

-Visual Communication – Shapes have the power to convey messages and emotions without the need for words, which adds to or detracts from the meaning of the actual words used. They can communicate concepts and values linked with a business or product. By understanding the psychology behind the shapes used, companies can use them to enhance their visual communication. 

-Brand Identity – Shapes contribute heavily to the overall personality of an organization. Because different shapes evoke different emotions and associations, a company can quite literally shape their perception with the shapes they choose to utilize. Whether it’s a logo, packaging, or a blanket presentation of the brand, the right choice of shapes can literally tell people how to view your company. 

-Differentiation – Almost every industry has a competitive market, making it more important than ever to stand out from the competition. Shapes are an effective tool to create a unique visual identity that stands and gains the attention of their target audience.

-Emotional Connection – Shapes have the ability to evoke emotions and influence how people feel about a business or product. By leveraging the psychology of shapes, companies can choose shapes that match their core ideals and mission to create a connection with their audience. Emotional connection leads to brand loyalty, trust, and engagement.

-User Experience and Product Design – As stated above, shapes are relevant to product design as well as user experience. Shapes used in interfaces, product design and overall shape, and packaging can impact user perception, usability, and overall experience. Understanding the psychological impact of these shapes allows businesses to design products that are visually appealing, intuitive, and user-friendly. 

The Core Shapes

Blue form shaped into triangles, squares, circles, and rectangles

The most commonly used shapes are variations of circles, squares/rectangles, triangles, curved lines, angles/sharp lines, and organic shapes. We’ll break down the shape psychology of these core shapes, along with how that psychology changes when the shape is varied (picture a pyramid-like, symmetrical triangle compared to an asymmetrical or tilted triangle). 

Note there are other shapes out there, such as hexagons and the like, but they are seen in marketing and product design far less frequently than the core shapes above. 

Psychology of Shapes Broken Down

Overlapping circles to illustrate the color psychology of circles.

Circle Shape Psychology

Positive Associations: Circles are often associated with unity, wholeness, perfection, friendship, continuity, and softness/gentility. They bring about feelings of social connection, inclusivity, and cooperation. Because there is no start and end, they can symbolize eternal cycles and infinite possibilities. The lack of sharp edges and angles can provide a feeling of warmth, nurturing, or approachability. 

Negative Associations: The reverse of the above connotations, however, can also lead to feelings of confinement (being “stuck in a circle”), repetition, and monotony. Circles may be seen to lack complexity or diversity, lending to conformity and lack of individuality. 

These associations can vary based on cultural, personal, and contextual factors. Additionally, the combination of shapes, colors, and other design elements can influence whether the circles used evoke positive or negative associations with them. 

top view of stacked square pyramids

Psychology of Squares & Rectangles

Positive Associations: Squares and rectangles are often associated with stability and reliability. Their even sides and balanced proportions convey order, structure, and control. Squares are commonly used in corporate settings because they evoke professionalism and no-nonsense approaches to competence and trust. The even sides lend to fairness and equality, justice, and impartiality. 

Negative Associations: Sharp corners and straight lines can be viewed as rigid and inflexible, adding to feelings of being confined or restricted. Excessive repetition or lack of variation in shapes used can make squares evoke boredom or monotony (ever heard the phrase, ugh, he’s such a square? It came from somewhere). Squares can also be linked with conformity and stagnation due to their static, immovable nature. You can’t roll a square or rectangle anywhere. 

As with circles, cultural, personal, and contextual factors affect the way people perceive the squares used in your business. The negative connotations can always be balanced out with the use of other design elements, including other shapes used, text, and color. 

Stacks of colorful paper forming triangles

Triangle Psychology

Positive Associations: Triangles are often associated with energy, dynamics, and movement. The pointed shape can convey a sense of direction, progress, or excitement. Triangles are often used to represent ambition and assertiveness, and can evoke strength and stability. A triangle with 3 equal sides can symbolize equilibrium and balance. The unique shape can evoke uniqueness, originality, or innovation. 

Negative Associations: If a triangle is asymmetrical or irregular, it can convey uneasiness or instability. An unexpected orientation or unconventionally placed triangle may be associated with chaos or unpredictability. The points of triangles are also used to point out danger or aggression (such as caution or toxic waste signage). In some contexts, they can also represent conflict or confrontation and division. 

The types of triangle used can change the shape psychology behind them. Be mindful of whether your design is using symmetrical or asymmetrical triangles. Balance their use with the rest of your imaging to be sure you’re portraying the positive messaging behind your brand. Due to their versatility, a triangle can be used to portray just about anything.

colorful curved lines to show the color psychology of them.

Curved Line Shape Psychology

Positive Associations: Curved lines (think waves or arcs), can evoke a sense of fluidity, grace, and elegance. Their natural movement (drawn from streams or paths) lend to softness and gentility, relaxation, and organic or natural elements. Curved lines are seen as more creative and imaginative compared to straight lines, conveying artistic expression, freedom, or playfulness.

Negative Associations: Just as they can be seen as more creative and imaginative than straight lines, they can also appear unsteady or weak where straight lines appear strong and stable. Especially when exaggerated or irregular, curved lines can feel unpredictable or convoluted and confused. 

It’s worth noting that depending on the nature of the lines and the culture they’re used in, they can also be seen as sensual, especially when combined with other elements. Depending on your market, this can be a positive or negative association and can be used as a strength. 

yellow road paint in a sharp angle on asphalt

Psychology of Sharp Angles and Lines

Positive Associations: Sharp angles and lines evoke a sense of strength, power, and assertiveness. They also point to precision and accuracy, clarity, and structure/detail. Sharp angles and lines are often used in contemporary and modern designs because they convey edginess and innovation. They also literally point to focus and direction, guiding a viewer’s attention down a visual path.

Negative Associations: The sharpness in these angles can create a sense of rigidity or hostility. The sharp angles can also mean danger or a lack of comfort. Sharp angles can be linked with disruption or imbalance and create visual chaos when used excessively or without balancing elements. Sharp lines also appear sterile or cold, especially in the absence of softer elements. 

Balancing elements are important to conveying positive emotions from sharp lines and angles. Other design elements can influence the overall perception of sharp angles and lines within a design or context. 

mosaic made of organic shapes to show the color psychology of them

Shape Psychology of Organic Shapes

Positive Associations: Organic shapes (which are irregular, but have no sharp angles or straight lines) are linked with nature and creativity. Organic shapes can evoke harmony and tranquility as well as creativity and imagination. They lack rules, giving a more free-flowing design. They can evoke approachability, warmth, and relaxation. 

Negative Associations: Due to their lack of structure, organic shapes can be associated with instability or disorder. They lack the measured quality of geometric shapes so they can be associated with a lack of precision, or flakey and informal. They can be seen as too casual or unprofessional, depending on the context. 

Organic shapes can be powerful in creating a natural, informal feel but can be off putting in a structured, professional environment. Balancing your organic shapes with other design elements and using them mindfully can portray your company beautifully when used correctly. 

The Bottom Line

Shape psychology should absolutely be considered in branding or designing anything regarding your company. Shape psychology can even affect your customers’ view of your user interface, product design, and packaging choices. At the end of the day, it’s a vital piece of your brand connecting emotionally with your target audience. If you need help ensuring your design elements are aligned with your brand, reach out to a professional designer to get started on the right foot.

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