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Mind Prefers Basic Shapes

 

Explanations > Perception > Visual Perception > Mind Prefers Basic Shapes

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

In the process of recognition, the mind goes from contrast to line to shape very quickly. It then goes into matching mode, looking for something familiar. In this, basic shapes are the easiest to identify, and so the mind is likely to spot these first.

Basic shapes include triangles, squares, rectangles, hexagons, circles and ellipses. Of these, regular shapes are easiest to recognise, notably the very simple equilateral triangles, squares and circles.

Example

Architects often include rectangles, circles, triangles and other shapes into buildings. There are also architectural schools that emphasize general simplicity of form.

An advert includes a key message within a circle.

Discussion

Simple shapes have fewer angles, sides, curves and so on than other shapes. This means there is less cognitive effort required in tracing them out. This means they will be recognized quickly.

Recognition is speeded further when there is a lack of complexifying detail. This can be seen in simple designs of anything from toasters to offices. For producers, this may also reduce costs while also increasing style and attractiveness. Further simple pattern variations can be introduced with such as placing a regular shape on the thirds within a visual frame. This seems somehow 'nicer', though the viewer may not recognize that a very simple ratio is being used.

Even in complex visual frames the eye will quickly pick out simple shapes as it tries to find meaning in the combination of shapes.

So what?

If you want to direct the eye and grab attention, make good use of basic shapes. For example using square or circular crops on images, or even arranging a set of items in a triangular shape. Use simple shapes also in product design, packaging, adverts and so on.

See also

Mind Seeks Shape

 

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