July 25, 2023

Using shapes in graphic design

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Using shapes in graphic design


Abbie O’Connor, Multimedia Designer:

  • Shapes and their purpose 
  • When to use shapes in design 
  • Colour palettes

Shapes are fundamental elements in graphic design that have immense visual power when used in the right way. By employing shapes, designers create a language of form that communicates ideas, emotions, and messages. They can convey different moods and messaging depending on how they are applied in terms of colours, shapes, textures, and size, all while creating variety within design.

Circles convey unity and eternity, while squares evoke stability and reliability, and triangles symbolise energy and direction. Combining and manipulating shapes enable us, as designers, to craft striking compositions, guide the viewer’s eye, and establish visual hierarchy. Whether through abstract minimalism or elaborate illustrations, shapes infuse designs with meaning and aesthetics. They lay the groundwork for powerful visuals, fostering harmony and coherence, while adding a touch of creativity to breathe life into every design.

Alongside shapes, colours create different moods and tones in design. So, when using shapes in design, it is important to also consider the colour palette that you use with them. For example, using red could imply danger or a warning to catch someone’s attention. 

In the modern workplace, we are fortunate to benefit from many different pieces of software, such as Photoshop or Illustrator, which means that we are able to manipulate and modify shapes in so many ways, in a matter of seconds – from opacity to gradient to the softening of edges. Using shapes in design forms part of my daily role at Conscious Communications, where I use them to highlight key pieces of text or even an image to make it stand out. I also enjoy working with geometric patterns to enable many shapes to form part of a design. 

When you think about it, shapes form important aspects of every day life. I recently went to the Design Museum in London, and attended an interesting exhibition – British Road Signs – which revealed the design behind the important signs. What I think is so clever about the design of road signs is that they are purposefully simple, designed to be slick so that they can be read at high speeds and are distinctive for all to recognise; using just two type faces and three shapes. 

Shapes are the building blocks of effective graphic design. By understanding the significance of shapes and their inherent associations, we can harness their potential to create compelling visuals that resonate with audiences. Whether guiding drivers on the road or capturing attention in a digital space, mastering the art of shape empowers us to craft impactful and enduring creations.