How Shapes Spark Emotions and What This Means for Exhibition Stands

It is not only colour that can affect potential customer’s feelings towards a business’s exhibition stand or the business itself. Shape can also have a psychological effect and should therefore be taken into account in marketing design.

Types of Shapes

Geometric Shapes

These shapes have recognisable geometry. They are basic shapes like squares, triangles, circles, straight lines, etc. These shapes are usually:

  • Structured
  • Organised
  • Symmetrical

Natural/Organic Shapes

Organic shapes belong to nature. These shapes represent the things found in natural surroundings e.g. flowers, trees, clouds, earth, stars, etc.

These shapes usually:

  • Have curves
  • Are uneven
  • Are representative
  • Sometimes asymmetrical

Abstract Shapes

These shapes are derived from the organic shapes. Abstract shapes are usually:

  • Stylized or simplified form or the combination of the other shapes.

Psychology of Four-Sided Structures

Four-sided structures are everywhere, from buildings to tables, down to the smallest cubes. Four sided objects and spaces are everywhere. We spend most of our lives in a four-walled room.

Hence, these smooth and straight lines have formed their meaning in our minds.

These four-sided structures depict –

  • Trust
  • Stability
  • Uniformity
  • Honesty
  • Equality
  • Security

Furthermore, the shapes which have right angles, as in squares and rectangles represent –

  • Order
  • Rationality
  • formality

However, these qualities are depicted when these shapes rest on their base. If they are tilted a bit their stability is lost.

Squares and rectangles are so common that they lack attention capturing capabilities. A little tilt, however, might make them capture attention but it also results in loss of existing properties of stability, order, and formality.

Other four-sided structures like Trapezium and Rhombus have different meanings than squares and rectangles.

Trapezium (pyramid like structures) depicts better stability and growth.

Rhombus depicts speed.

Psychology of Three-Sided Structure (Triangles)

Triangle is a leader and because of its angles is energetic and focused. Triangles represent action. It also depicts the direction of that action with the side they’re pointing to.

Triangles Depict –

  • Dynamics
  • Strength
  • Aggression
  • Action
  • Direction
  • Tension
  • Balance
  • Masculinity
  • Peace

Triangles depict different meaning when placed differently. They show stability and strength when placed on its base. But when tilted, they show instability and tension.

Psychology of Round Shapes

Circles depict –

  • Completeness
  • Love
  • Movement
  • Eternity
  • Protection
  • Intellectualism
  • Femininity
  • Circles are less common than other shapes. Hence, they act as attention seekers.

Psychology of Curves

Curves are happy shapes. These shapes are –

  • Creative
  • Have a rhythm
  • Generous
  • Give pleasure when viewed
  • Shapes with curves are often considered to be feminine

Psychology of Straight Lines (Vertical Lines & Horizontal Lines)

Vertical lines block your way. They are dominant and bold. They are also considered to move upward. Hence, they represent

  • Courage
  • Domination
  • Masculinity
  • Boldness
  • Aggression
  • Growth

Horizontal lines rest on a platform. They are calm and harmless. They represent

  • Calmness
  • Rest
  • Femininity
  • Silence

Psychology of Spirals

Spirals represent

  • Creativity
  • Religion
  • Trust

Their direction represents two different meanings.

Clockwise spirals start with a spiral and end with an open end. This represents incompleteness and an intention to go somewhere.

Anticlockwise spirals start with an open end and end up in a spiral which shows completeness and fulfilled intentions.

Psychology of Sharp Shapes / Sharp Angles

These shapes are more youthful, more aggressive, and are seen as more masculine. These represent

  • Liveliness
  • Anger
  • Action
  • Masculinity

Similarly, shapes with obtuse angle have perfectly opposite characteristics. They are considered

  • Chill out
  • Laid Back
  • Passive

Psychology of Organic Shapes

Organic Shapes are like geometric shapes but involves more of colour psychology as well. Organic shapes are a combination of basic geometric shapes and hence their meaning can be derived by deciphering the meaning of geometric shapes. Still, organic shapes depict certain common characteristics like

  • Interest
  • Originality

Abstract shapes are simplified and/or stylized versions of organic shapes. These are the simplification of ideas. Abstract shapes give shape to ideas. Some of the abstract shapes have universal recognition while others require explanation.

Apple’s bitten logo is an abstract shape. People have come out with varied meanings for the same logo. Still, it has only one meaning – It represents the company which is different from others. Abstract Shapes are used to stand out, and to differentiate from others.

Combination of Shapes

Sometimes, to express a message, a combination of different shapes can be used. Deciphering this combination can be made possible by applying two different visual psychology theories.

Top-Down Processing Theory – We use our past experience or stored knowledge in order to infer about what we see.

Bottom-up Processing Theory – sensation is perception. What we sense is what we perceive. Prior stored knowledge is not used while perceiving.

For example – A triangle on a square can be seen as an arrow or a rocket if we follow ‘Top Down Processing Theory’. While we’ll try to assign it the meaning of a square and a triangle if we follow ‘Bottom-Up Processing Theory’.

Get Started with Smart Display

If you’re looking to make the most out of exhibiting, then ensuring your exhibition stand will engage and impact people when they visit, is a must. From shapes and colours, to interactive ideas and bespoke elements, get in touch with us here at Smart Display to learn more about how we can help you and your business make the most out of exhibiting.