Understanding the psychology of shapes to improve your Licensing content

In 1944, the experimental psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel of Smith University carried out a now-famous experiment: after enjoying a video that includes three shifting shapes—a small triangle, a big triangle, a circle, and a rectangle—they requested individuals to write down what they’d simply watched. Most noticed it as an animated story, with the summary shapes representing characters with ideas, emotions, and motivations.

As with colours, we frequently assign bigger meanings to easy shapes. In promoting, entrepreneurs use shapes to faucet into our personal feelings and needs. While typically mentioned in the context of illustration or brand design, shapes play a key position in all branded messaging, making them an important software for business photographers as effectively. In this fast information, we’ll take a more in-depth take a look at the psychology of shapes, how they’re utilized in promoting, and how one can incorporate them into your work behind the lens.

Squares and rectangles

Found in the artifical world, squares supply a way of authority, steadiness, and stability. Perhaps it’s price noting that in Simmel and Heider’s experiment, many individuals seen the rectangular form as a “house.” Connecting squares to concepts relating to safety, designers typically use sq. logos to symbolize trustworthiness and professionalism (assume Microsoft, the BBC, National Geographic, Chase financial institution, or American Express).

In pictures, squares and rectangles can be utilized to “frame” your topic and create steadiness. The rule of thirds, typically used to create concord in pictures, additionally depends on enthusiastic about your photos in phrases of rectangles, or grids.


Absence of Daylight by Eivind Hansen on 500px.com

As with squares, the straight strains that compose triangles can be utilized to symbolize stability—with a playful or various twist. As we affiliate triangles with mountains, these shapes may also be used to symbolize success or progress, at the very least after they face towards the sky, as in the case of, as an illustration, the Delta or Hyundai logos.

Absence of Daylight by Eivind Hansen on 500px.com

On the different hand, inverted triangles really feel precarious and daring. “While upright triangles relate to success, triumph, stability, and balance, inverted triangles might suggest risk,” the 500px workforce tells us. Finally, sideways triangles counsel ahead movement; take into account, as an illustration, the Google Play, FedEx, AOL, or YouTube logos. In pictures, triangles may be employed equally. In some circumstances, they’ll even act as a sort of arrow, pointing us to the most vital half of the picture.


Below the UFO  by Earendil_Light Yen on 500px.com

Reminiscent of bees’ honeycombs, hexagons are typically related to feats of engineering, and by extension, the future. As full, closed, and symmetrical shapes, hexagons may symbolize emotions of professionalism and trustworthiness, very similar to squares and rectangles. For instance, the HSBC brand, impressed by the financial institution’s unique home flag, conveys a way of energy and safety.


 by Yiran Ding on 500px.com

Used to symbolize the solar, moon, and stars, circles have additionally come to symbolize unity, solidarity, inclusion, and calm. Circles may really feel religious, symbolizing the cycle of life in addition to celestial our bodies. (The NASA brand, for instance, features a circle, as does the tree-inspired Timberland brand). Circles are symmetrical and full, suggesting energy, however at the similar time, they’re typically interpreted as playful and even “friendly.” Like squares, they can be utilized to body photographic topics, performing as a sort of “spotlight” signaling the most vital half of your picture.

Circle Of life by Hossein Zare on 500px.com

Unlike angular shapes, which might really feel sharp or laborious, circles really feel gentle. As half of one latest examine, Amitava Chattopadhyay and his workforce at the enterprise faculty INSEAD investigated the affect of brand form on model notion. They confirmed individuals advertisements for sofas and athletic sneakers, with some individuals seeing an advert with an angular brand, some seeing an advert with a round brand, and a few seeing no brand in any respect. Their findings: individuals who noticed the angular brand thought of the sneakers and couch as extra sturdy, whereas those that noticed the round brand thought of them as extra comfy.

Friends by Hossein Zare on 500px.com


From the DNA double helix to nautilus shells to hurricanes, spirals seem all through the pure world. When utilized in promoting, they’ll evoke a way of natural vitality or vitality. At the similar time, spirals may create a way of disorientation; take into account, for instance, Saul Bass’s iconic Vertigo film poster. “Spirals feel hypnotic, and they carry different meanings in various cultures,” the 500px workforce provides.

Gae Aulenti by Sara Zanini on 500px.com

In the photographic realm, spirals can seem in varied methods, instantly and not directly. One of the commonest methods can be to use the golden spiral, a mathematical sample created by following the golden ratio. Compositions that make use of this precept are sometimes thought to be extra interesting and visually partaking.

Curves and contours

Untitled by ??? J on 500px.com

Though not a form, natural curves can function a robust component in pictures, serving to to information the eye all through the picture and creating a way of movement. The Coca-Cola brand and Nike swoosh each converse to the energy of curves in cultivating a spirit of motion and creativity. “Often seen in interior design, curves feel smooth and welcoming,” the 500px workforce says. In the proper context, they’ll additionally really feel seductive: “Consider the ‘sexy curves’ in the body or the design of automobiles,” the workforce at 500px provides.

Steps by Hossein Zare on 500px.com

Lines may assist differentiate your pictures and convey the proper message to your viewers. While horizontal strains are often perceived as grounding, vertical strains may evoke emotions of energy and class. Diagonal strains really feel dynamic and even sporty (take into account the Adidas brand).

When selecting what strains and shapes to use in your photographic compositions, assume of your goal purchaser. If you’re taking pictures business-themed photos for monetary manufacturers, as an illustration, you may select straight strains, squares, or triangles. If, nevertheless, you’re interesting to a inventive and sustainable way of life model, curves, circles or spirals may be a greater guess. These shapes may be created by way of cropping, however we additionally encourage you to assume of them when framing your photographs. Stepping again and being intentional about your composition, perspective, and angles can breathe new life into your Licensing portfolio.

Outlands by Alexander Riek on 500px.com

Finally, form alone is just one piece of the puzzle, and texture and colour can even assist talk the temper or intention behind your photographs. Be positive to take a look at our article on this 12 months’s colour developments for an concept of how you need to use completely different hues, along with varied shapes, to elevate your work.

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