When it comes to designing a logo, shape is key. The emotional response a logo elicits can have a resounding effect on the way customers view a particular product, service or company. That’s why logo shapes used by big brands aren’t chosen by chance.
Logos are the face of every brand. And a powerful logo may look simple, but there’s nothing simple about creating effective logo shapes. To discover more about how you can use the psychology of shapes in logo design to create more meaningful logos, we need to understand the hidden messages in shapes.
Human brains are hard-wired to understand and memorize shapes because it’s how we learn. Thus, our subconscious minds respond in different ways to different logo shapes. Straight lines, circles, curves and jagged edges all imply different meanings. And a skilled logo designer can use shape to infer particular qualities about a brand. For example, the Nike Swoosh is a combination of curves ending in a sharp point offers a strong suggestion of movement.
Circles, Ovals & Ellipses
Circles suggest partnership, strength, resilience, and tend to project a positive emotional message. Using a circle in a logo can also suggest community, friendship, love, relationships and unity. Rings have an implication of marriage and partnership, suggesting stability and endurance. This is perhaps best demonstrated with the Olympic rings.
Triangles & Squares
Straight edged logo shapes suggest stability and imply balance. Straight lines also impart strength, professionalism and efficiency.
Triangles have all the energy and danger associated with diagonal lines, but in a simple solid structure. They can often be found in logos for religion, law or science to promote a sense of power. And are often used in logos for companies with a masculine market.
If you’re looking for a solid reliable shape to use within a logo, then a square is the best way to go. Vertical and horizontal lines creates a perfect balance for demonstrating reliability. However, something to consider is that squares can be boring without the correct use of colour, shading and other effects.
Curves, which are feminine, will tend to create a positive and comforting response. They imply tenderness, care, friendship, protection and love. Curves are frequently used to resemble a smile and promote happiness in a product; such as the Amazon logo.
Diagonal lines tend to belong to energetic and exciting companies that are keen to make themselves seen and heard. Overusing a diagonal line, however, is a danger as it tends to create exactly that, danger.
Our subconscious minds associate vertical lines with masculinity, strength and aggression. They also impart strength and professionalism, and are often used in corporate logos to promote a sense of reliability and efficiency. However, vertical lines can sometimes come across as cold or aggressive.
Horizontal lines on the other hand create a sense of calmness and Zen tranquility. They project a natural sense of balance that can be used to influence audiences, and are often a safe choice for use with a logo.
Though not real shapes, abstract or organic shapes are a combination of basic geometric shapes. They depict certain common characteristics like interest, originality, or a niche.
Some brands have certain messages or values they wish to promote with their logo. Others, however, may require multiple shapes and patterns to achieve this. Neither of these ways of thinking are wrong. But in the end it all comes down to how carefully and creatively the logo is designed.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.