Why Digital Media News

Web Design - The Psychology of Shapes and Symbols

Shape Up - WHY you need the right fit

Shapes, symbols and colour all have subliminal affects on a websites user. By starting simply and in referring to the processes of visual perception and psychology, we can gain crucial information before wording or even images have had a chance to  register fully with the user.

The purpose of shapes, boxes and borders can be split into many factors, but here are the main three as we identify them:

1.     Drawing the eye of the potential customer to areas onsite desired.

2.     To add value to the web design and content and to retain users interest.

3.     Partition web designed elements and to allow flow visually for the user.

There are four geometric shapes that all carry connotations within the psyche of peoples' choices and prejudices.

Squares & Rectangles

The majority of web design shaping is rectangular, diamond or squared. Currently we perceive this established shape as a back up of its traditional meanings – as set by objects like windows, magazines, letters and the like.

So psychologically the generated emotions before even filled when seeing squares and rectangles onscreen are therefore: reliability, familiarity, rigidity and stability, dependability and safety. Hence the expression ‘think outside the box’ requires something thst deens dangerous, or unnatural.



Apart from logos and specifically required design, circles are not the staple of web designers. The logical reason is space. The oblong nature of computer screens naturally inhibit circles, as there will always be leftover shapes if trying to implement fixed circles to a webpage.

However using opacity and colour with purpose can easily overcome such problems, and in branding and consciousness the circle can influence feelings of the infinite, as well as enclosing security so there is trust to be found in manipulating spherical and ringed content - but again if the function and brief does not demand it, be wary.



The connotations of triangular shapes are relatively obvious and imprinted onto our psyche. Pyramids, beacons, warnings and flags all come from human abstractions of triangles.


More universally triangular objects convey strength through dynamism so arrows, pointers and opening this wider, sensations of action and movement are all generated. With this strength of shape combined with the ‘movement’ based symbolism, familiarity is also garnered but if tweaked, the ideas of conflict are never far away.

A specific example of the connotations associated with shape is with the ‘jagged star’. To many Westerners this is embedded in our mind-set as a retail shape – a ‘sale’ or ‘discount offers’ sign.

Natural Shapes

Using natural shapes is ideal for corresponding design. Any company that focuses on the outside world, or perhaps a whole foods store that needs an ‘Earthy’ homepage would be the ideal client when considering natural shape and image selection so outlines of leaves or trees, actual photographs of people and animals all constitute ‘natural shapes’.

Abstract Shapes & Symbols

faces     Abstract shapes

Redefining shapes that are at some level based on reality usually generates abstract shapes. So created symbols like alphabet glyphs, emoticons, non-formalised and 3D shapes, wisps and irregular silhouettes may all be considered ‘abstract’ by definition. It is worth noting that lots of the best web tools, simplified logos (such as bathroom symbols of men, women’s & disabled toilets) are all examples of the power of good abstraction from ‘real world’ shapes.

By delving into psychology we can take a more fundamentally accurate way of creating web design with lasting logos, websites, brands and marketing that have more meaning to the user. This will also allow the actual stylistic decisions and added content to work with better form and consistency.

Visual pollution and sustained computer is becoming problematic so the more good web design we can put into the world to make browsing, reading and communicating subliminally and externally more pleasurable, the better!