We see shapes every day, but hardly take notice of them. You can’t really blame people for not appreciating every shape they see otherwise you’d hardly get anything done. However, it’s important to realise the meaning behind certain shapes, especially when you look at design and how various shapes have been used together in order to convey a message to its audience.

Whether it’s coming from an abstract artist or it’s for an international marketing campaign, the use of shape in design and layout isn’t just for fun, it’s supposed to send a message to its viewers. Shapes can symbolise ideas, set moods or even make you relate your own past experiences. And different shapes can represent separate ideas or concepts.

Geometric Shapes

Geometric shapes were most likely the first shapes you dealt with in your childhood and are by far the simplest, for example a circle. Most geometric shapes are symmetrical and are believed to actually convey a silent message, an underlying sense of safety and completeness.

Organic Shapes

Organic shapes are based on what we see around us, mostly based on nature. Organic shapes can be as basic as flowers and leaves or as complicated as animals. Organic shapes can also represent ideals that we create ourselves such as paint splatters.

Abstract Shapes

Abstract shapes are simplified versions of real things, for example a drawing of a stick figure representing a person. Furthermore, road signs are an excellent example of abstract shapes as we can understand what the sign is informing us by combining our imagination with the visual of the abstract shapes on the sign.


A polygon is any 2-dimensional shape formed from straight lines, this includes; triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, etc. It has become more of a trend for designers to use polygons over rectangles/squares in design now because it gives a different feel compared to a plain rectangle or square.

However, what designers have been doing recently is using polygons as interlocking shapes in order to create unique designs that can either be aesthetically pleasing or functional. For example, interior and furniture designers are combining polygons to create both a functional and fun environment. Modoola design polygon shaped desks that can be used separately or can be connected together to make any shape the user desires, encouraging a collaborative and enjoyable workplace environment.

Rectangles, Squares and Circles

Rectangles and squares are probably the most common shapes and are ones that we see and use every day. Due to our familiarity with them, they make us feel safe and confident which is why we tend to use them for any foundation or frame for design.

In a deeper sense of meaning; the straight lines, right angles and symmetry gives us a feeling of balance and practicality. Rectangles aren’t attention seekers or extravagant, they’re plain and simple. Some designers describe them as boring and use twists and turns in order to add something extra to their design.

Circles have positive connotations, and give a feeling of completeness and protection. Normally circles will be used in logos or badges because they represent a sense of unity and togetherness. Designers will also use the curves of circles to represent freedom of movement and grace. A perfect example of the meaning of a circle would be a wedding ring because it represents a cycle of continuing commitment.

Some shapes have various meanings, however, it’s something that is subjective to the individual, whether that’s the designer or the audience. Shapes can have a huge impact on any design, it can convey a message that would otherwise be difficult to get across in text. Shapes are so much more powerful than we can even comprehend, we just have to understand them.


Published by Matthew Piggot