How do I select the appropriate shapes for my design?


  • When selecting shapes for your design, start by defining your purpose. 
  • If you're aiming to convey trust and professionalism, geometric shapes like squares and rectangles are ideal, particularly for corporate or financial logos. 
  • For playful or friendly designs, such as a children's toy brand, use organic shapes like circles and curves. 
  • Consider your audience's cultural context, as shapes can have different meanings globally. 
  • Understand shape psychology: squares imply stability and order, circles evoke unity and harmony, triangles suggest dynamism, and spirals convey growth. 
  • Use shapes to create focus, contrast, and depth, while maintaining simplicity to avoid clutter.

Detailed answer

Selecting the right shapes for your design is crucial in conveying the intended message and evoking the desired emotions. Here are some key factors to consider:

1.Define the purpose

Determine what you aim to achieve with your design. Are you conveying a specific message, or is the focus on visual appeal? Understanding the purpose will guide your choice of shapes. For example, if you are designing a logo for a financial institution, using geometric shapes like squares and rectangles can help convey a sense of trust, reliability, and professionalism. On the other hand, if you are designing a logo for a children's toy brand, incorporating organic shapes like circles and curves can evoke feelings of joy, playfulness, and friendliness.

Related reading: How can shapes be used effectively in design? 

2.Consider your audience

Consider the preferences and cultural associations of your target audience. Different shapes can have various meanings depending on cultural context. For instance, the swastika shape has positive connotations of good fortune and well-being in Hindu and Buddhist cultures, but it carries very negative connotations in Western cultures due to its association with Nazi Germany.

3.Determine the message and emotions

Shapes can convey different emotions, meanings, and brand messages. By understanding how different shapes impact people psychologically, you can make smart design choices that reflect your brand's vision and goals.

Squares and rectangles: Stability, reliability, and order. Ideal for conveying professionalism and structure, making them suitable for corporate designs. Often used for navigation menus and call-to-action buttons to evoke a sense of balance and security.

Website showing a software product tagline, demo booking option, integration details, and company logos with a city office image.


Circles and ovals: Unity, harmony, and inclusiveness. These shapes are perfect for creating a sense of community and continuity. Commonly incorporated into logos, icons, and call-to-action buttons to give a youthful and carefree feel.

Interior design studio website featuring a call to action, designer Anna Nova, and a cozy room setup with low seating and wooden furniture.


Triangles: Dynamism, movement, and direction. They are great for designs that aim to show progression or innovation. Triangles can direct attention and suggest power or instability based on their orientation.

Project Management Institute slide on stakeholder engagement with a white triangle design on an orange background.


Polygons with more than four sides: Shapes like pentagons, hexagons, and octagons can add complexity and intrigue, capturing the viewer's attention quickly. They convey structure and strength, ideal for creating visually engaging designs.

A yellow webpage with the title "Think it. We make it." and a numbered list in Greek. A large hexagon shape is in the background.


Curves, waves, and swooshes: Add fluidity and calmness, making the viewer feel relaxed. They help create a stylish and contemporary interface that entices exploration without straining the eyes.

Headspace graphic with a smiling orange circle and flowing yellow and green waves.


Arrows: Effective for conveying direction and guiding viewers through the design. They come in various styles to convey strength, playfulness, or cyclical processes.Boundary Supply website featuring a large 'B' and a hexagonal shape with an arrow pointing right.


Spirals: Growth, evolution, and transformation. Useful in designs related to development and change. They add motion and can intrigue viewers with their sense of creativity and evolution.

Spirous app interface on a yellow background, featuring spirograph designs and customization options.


Crosses: Balance and spirituality. Often used in designs with a focus on faith or healing. Crosses symbolize connection, transition, and unity.

Diamonds or rhombuses: Provide a contemporary look and can make designs feel more vibrant and active. Used to add a dynamic twist to otherwise conventional designs.

Apidura cycling gear posters featuring hexagonal design elements and product images.


Timberline Tours website showing rafting trips with images of guides and participants on a river.


Zigzags: Signify motion and can create a sense of excitement and energy. Often used in backgrounds to add a playful and dynamic element.

Jaybird eCommerce site with a large 'J' and a bold purple ribbon-like shape, featuring a right-pointing arrow.


Stars: Convey a message of importance or achievement, commonly associated with success and rewards.

4.Design elements and composition

Use shapes to organize your design effectively:

Focus and emphasis: Larger or bolder shapes can draw attention to key elements. By using shapes of different visual weights, you can create focal points that guide the viewer's eyes to the most important parts of your design. For example, a large circle or bold rectangle can highlight a call-to-action button or an essential piece of information.

Contrast: Use contrasting shapes and colors to make elements stand out. Combining different shapes, such as squares and circles, and using contrasting colors can create a visually appealing design that captures attention. This technique helps in distinguishing between different sections or elements, making the design more engaging.

Organization: Shapes can help structure information, making it easier to read and understand. By grouping related content within shapes like rectangles or grids, you can create a clear and organized layout. 

Depth and perspective: Create depth by varying the size and position of shapes. Larger shapes appear closer, while smaller shapes seem further away. Overlapping shapes can also enhance the sense of depth, making the design more dynamic. For instance, placing a smaller shape partially behind a larger one can create a layered effect that adds visual interest.

Creating depth with shapes: Shapes that lean toward a protagonist appear to be blocking or stopping progress, while shapes leaning away give the impression of aiding progress by opening up space. This technique can be used to guide the viewer's journey through the design, emphasizing certain paths or actions.

Background simplicity: Try to keep background shapes simple and large. A large shape can help attract attention, and its simplicity can move the focus of the viewer back to the foreground. This approach ensures that the primary elements remain the center of attention without the background becoming distracting.

Try to use as few shapes as possible. Don’t use three or four shapes to communicate when one shape will do. Limiting the number and size of shapes where possible maintains clarity and prevents the design from becoming cluttered.

❓Questions designers should ask themselves

By asking the right questions, designers can question their decisions, find areas to improve, make sure nothing is overlooked, and reduce mistakes, leading to better, more thoughtful designs.

  • What is the primary purpose of my design?
  • Who is my target audience? What are their preferences and cultural associations with different shapes?
  • What emotions and messages do I want to convey? How do different shapes impact people psychologically concerning my brand's vision and goals?
  • Am I using shapes that align with the brand's identity?
  • Is my design organized and easy to understand? Are shapes helping to structure information?
  • Have I avoided clutter by using as few shapes as necessary to communicate my message?

⚠️ Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

  • Not defining the purpose of the design, leading to shape choices that don't support the intended message.
  • Failing to consider the cultural and emotional associations of the target audience with different shapes.
  • Using too many shapes, which can clutter the design and make it confusing.
  • Not using enough contrast between shapes and colors, resulting in a lack of visual hierarchy.
  • Selecting shapes that convey the wrong emotions or messages for the brand.
  • Overlooking techniques to create depth, making the design flat and less engaging.
  • Using shapes that don't align with the overall design theme or brand identity.
  • Overloading the background with complex shapes, distracting from the main content.
  • Not guiding the viewer's eye through the design effectively, leading to a disorganized look.

🤝 Credits

Our content combines the knowledge of Cieden’s designers with insights from industry influencers. Big thanks to all the influencers for sharing awesome content!

📚 Keep exploring 

Never stop growing. Explore resources thoughtfully handpicked by Cieden’s designers. 

Basic shape tools in Figma design

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