Research- Shapeology

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.
—Georgia O’Keeffe. (, 2016)

Shapes can be 2D objects with no boundaries- no limit to their size or how many sides they have. They can be ordered or in disarray, with complex structures which are hard to comprehend- much like the personality traits/emotions found in humans. Different shapes used for a design perspective give a different vibe to the pieces themselves.

Shapes are used to:

  • Organize information through connection and separation
  • Symbolize different ideas
  • Create movement, texture, and depth
  • Convey mood and emotion
  • Emphasize and create entry points and areas of interest
  • Lead the eye from one design element to the next. (Bradley, 2010).

So what types of shapes are there? 

Geometric shapes- these are what most of us know of as shapes, they have recognizable elements. The regularity behind these shapes hints at organization and efficiency. They are the ordered ones in society- the leaders.

Natural/Organic shapes- these are the irregular shapes with more curves and uneven edges. This natural look makes them look more pleasing visually and generally makes them feel more comforting. They also can give feelings of a sporadic nature, due to the uncertainty of their form.

Abstract Shapes-these are shapes with a known form, but are not actually real. They are essentially alerted or abstract versions of organic shapes. For example, a stick figure is an abstract shape of a person. These shapes are used to show ideas and concepts, idealization is the key here.

The meanings of shapes.

Circles represent whole eternal life in every culture due to the fact they have no beginning or end. The symbolise the Sun, Earth, Moon and Universe itself. Circles have free movement- allowing them to roll, their curves also seen as feminine, giving a sensual feel to them. The give of an energy that suggests harmony, able to fit in. Their whole look gives them the purpose of protection, acting as a community to bring perfection.

Squares/Rectangles are the stable shapes in society- their edges give a trust worthy vibe. They are ordered, due to their right angles, representing mathematics.The shapes also suggest security and equality to the law. The are the most common shape- making them seem boring.

In Pixars UP Carl and Ellie’s character design uses the shapes to demonstrate their personalities. Carl was stubborn and conservative and so his character design is square in shape. Ellie, however, is energetic and high on life so is more circular in nature.


Ellie’s smooth character design compared to that of the harsher, edgier Carl’s. (, 2016).

Triangles represent both the stable (when on their base) and unstable (when on their points). They represent action and aggression, they have the power to suggest conflict or steady strength. They are also balanced, and can be a symbol for law, religion and science. Triangles can also represent movement (their corners pointing towards a destination). Their strength suggest masculinity.

All of these ideas are something that we can look to, especially with character design.


In Aladdin, Disney design the characters down to basic shapes.You can see the harder geometric shape of Jafar (the villain) compared to that of Sultan. The smooth shape principle is also shown in Jasmine- her curves giving her the sensuality she needs. (Photobucket, 2016).


Anger from Inside Out is more rigid and square in design- his hot hotheadedness shown in his nature. Joy is smoother with more circular features, alluding to her more carefree nature. (, 2016).

Bobby Pintallas linked the importance of applying shape to character design rather nicely on his blog.He gave quite a few examples of angular vs smooth in animation including the comparison of the age progression in Yagoobian (or Goobs). The young Goobs is smooth and innocent, that of a child, the older, tainted character is sharper. His silhouette is more angular, making him more villainous in nature.


From Meet the Robinsons(profile, 2011).

In the plot lines that I was exploring I had a look at a lot of shape elements- how these could be implemented into the story line. Here are a few I had a look at;

  • Spheres rolling down a  hill, a Cube comes along and realises he can’t because of his sharp edges. The circles notice and give him wheels/rollerblades and he joins in
  • One Shape can’t reach an apple on a tree, another comes along and realises they can’t either. They battle for a bit but then realise if they join together, they can reach the shape above. I was inspired by the Despicable Me short below.

Fighting it out like the Minions in this scene. (YouTube, 2016).

  • A building has a hole in it and the circle superhero can’t fit to hold it up. However, the less known, more shabby Square hero is more stable and can- the two celebrate together.

We’ll meet on Monday to discuss what we’ve found so far.


References, (2016). Georgia O’Keeffe Quotes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Bradley, S. (2010). The Meaning Of Shapes: Developing Visual Grammar – Vanseo Design. [online] Vanseo Design. Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016]., (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Photobucket, (2016). Photo by Amanda Z. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016]., (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

profile, V. (2011). Bobby’s NY Journal: Design Presentation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

YouTube, (2016). Despicable Me – Ending Credit first part. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2016].


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