Shapes in Advertising

10 minute read

Success in modern advertising depends heavily on a brand’s ability to grab and hold the attention of its target audience. A lot of different things can attract a person’s focus. Sounds, colors, words – they all play a role in determining where we direct our attention. One often overlooked element is the impact that shapes in advertising can have on our interest in a product or service. Understanding the language of shapes is key to properly branding your products and services. 

But how are shapes important when it comes to the psychology of advertising? Long before there were letters, people communicated using symbols. Even as the first alphabet was created by the Phoenicians, the human psyche was influenced significantly by symbols. Over three thousand years later, certain shapes continue to have meaning in our lives. Shapes like the circle, spiral, triangle, square, and even horizontal and vertical lines all convey distinct messages. In advertising, most logos create or contain one of these shapes, and thus that element communicates some kind of message, whether intentional or not.

Spin ‘Em Right Round

Throughout human history, the circle has reigned supreme as the most recognizable shape. It is typically the first shape a young child will draw. It is the sun, moon, and earth, but more importantly, it symbolizes security, continuity, and protection. Since it lacks any edges, the never-ending circle (or oval) comforts the consumer while projecting an aura of unity and strength. That is why advertisers often use circles to subconsciously brand products with these qualities.

Historically, the circle represented wholeness, infinity, and the sun. Today, people associate circles with international brands such as Target, Volkswagen, GE, Mercedes Benz, and more. The circle has also come to dominate the sporting world, with more and more franchises – from soccer to basketball – changing decades-old team logos to simple circles, falling in line and following the status quo of an increasingly digital marketplace. The circle conveys a powerful message that one’s business is unified and strong, but aware of the needs of its consumers. 

Another round shape, the spiral, symbolizes life, continual change, and the evolution of the universe. Advertisers often take the message literally by applying it to brands for environmentally-conscious businesses. Like the circle, the lone spiral conveys a message of strength, but it differs from the circle in that it’s not a closed shape, making it more susceptible to change. This explains why the spiral logo is often applied to businesses that thrive on innovation or aim to produce something radically different. 

Set them Straight

Sometimes businesses need an edge in their creative processes. Edges in triangles, squares, rectangles, and even just vertical or horizontal lines all symbolize a slightly more solid and stable feeling. For example, the square is the image of stability. Unlike the circle and the spiral, the square has an extremely rigid shape. Advertisers use the square to evoke a message of professionalism. Companies like H&R Block, BBC, and Microsoft all include squares in their logos today. Typically, law firms and other companies that exist in a highly structured environment benefit from square or rectangular logos.

Triangles can also be used to symbolize stability, while simultaneously being used to convey movement and progress. Even though this is a less common shape in logos, it can be much more dynamic. Logos from companies like Delta, Mitsubishi, and Reebok all include triangles in one way or another. Some of these logos even include vertical or horizontal lines to further emphasize strength, stability, and progress. 

A perfect example of this is the Adidas logo which is a triangle composed of straight lines. Other logos with vertical or horizontal lines include IBM, Spotify, and Cisco. Horizontal lines tend to convey a slightly different message of speed, connectivity, and trust- making it the perfect design for technology companies that focus on streaming media or communications.

Pro Tip

The human brain processes visuals 60,000 faster than text; this fact alone is vital in focusing on the perfect logo for your business!

Organically Abstract

Logos that are more organic or abstract can capture attention by being unique and therefore more easily recognizable. Some instantly recognizable brands that have chosen to use a natural or organic element include Apple (an apple), Jaguar (a jaguar), Dove (a dove), and Patagonia (a mountainscape). These logos are difficult to forget due to their unique nature and their inextricable links to their brands’ names, products, or services. 

Like abstract art, abstract logos allow brands to convey their message however they like, using whatever shapes or patterns they feel will represent their brands best. Some popular abstract logos include Starbucks, Slack, and Squarespace. Companies like these tend to stand out, act as disruptors in their industry, or create a new niche entirely. 

Just like circles, curves convey the message of unity, protection, and strength. However, they also bring a more upbeat or happy energy. Logos like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nike, and Disney all include curved shapes either in the typeface of their name or their logo design. This technique is often used for brands targeting children or presenting themselves as family-friendly, such as McDonald’s and Disney. 

Wrap it All Up

It should be clear by now that it’s imperative to understand the language of shapes in order to properly brand products and businesses. Each shape conveys a distinct message to the consumer, whether it is of unity, strength, progress, motion, speed, stability, or life. Psychology influences consumers’ feelings about your logo and brand. Define your brand, audience, and be sure to think about how your logo will match your brand and target audience. Along with the shape of the logo, it is also important to consider the right colors and font. While color and font are a category of their own, it is crucial to grasp a basic understanding of both. A law office will most likely not use Comic Sans and the color pink for their logo, but a cosmetics line would be much more likely to do so.

Logo design is an important initial step for any new business or company going through a rebrand. Make sure you get off on the right foot by working with inSegment, a full-scale digital marketing agency with award-winning designers on the team.

With the help of the right professionals, narratives can be woven, ideas can be shared, and desires can be created simply by properly utilizing shape advertising. Remember that the silent power of shapes in advertising is not just a trend but a timeless language. It’s the code that unlocks the hearts and minds of consumers, ultimately benefiting your brand and business.

Contact inSegment today to begin working on a logo that works for you and your brand.