By Diana Gershman
Long before there were letters, people communicated in symbols. Even as the Phoenicians created the first non-pictographic alphabet, symbols remained in Mankind’s psyche. One thousand years later, certain shapes continue to have meaning in our lives – particularly in advertising. The circle, the square, and the double-spiral each convey a distinct message. Understanding the language of shapes is key to properly branding one’s product.
From the beginning of our species, the circle has reigned supreme as the most recognizable shape. It is the sun and the moon, the earth and the stars, but more importantly, it is a distinctly mature, feminine shape. Since it lacks any edges, the never-ending circle comforts the consumer while projecting an aura of unity and strength. That is why advertisers often use circles to subconsciously brand products with these qualities. Historically, the circle represented wholeness, infinity, the goddess, and the sun. Today, people associate circles with international brands such as Target, Starbucks, and practically every soft drink (e.g. Coke Cola). Beyond corporate franchises, the circle’s message of nurturing and strength is a constant presence in politics. How many Americans over the years have worn a campaign button with the face, name, or slogan of their favorite representative? Alternatively, how many activists over the years have used the slashed-circle to make a point? The circle conveys a powerful message that one’s business is unified and strong yet tender to needs of its consumers. Be careful though: spirals are circular but they are not circles
The (single) spiral means fertility, continual change, and the evolution of the universe. Advertisers sometimes take the message literally by applying it to brands for environmentally conscious businesses. For example, type “ocean” or “save the (insert marine animal)” into the search engine and there’s a good chance that spiral logos will pop up. Like the circle, the lone spiral conveys a message of strength yet the fact that it’s not a closed shape makes it susceptible to change. That explains why the spiral logo is often applied to businesses that thrive on innovation or aim to produce something radically different. Non-profit organizations (e.g. Dorset Climate Change Coalition) use the spiral’s message to enhance their cause. At the same time, for-profit businesses (e.g. Tyrell Software) know that the spiral assures consumers that they are an innovative group. To convey a message of change and strength, the spiral is a superb branding option. However, some businesses rely on stability as a means to reach consumers.
Sometimes businesses need an edge. Fortunately, the square is a portrait of stability. Unlike the circle and the spiral, the square has an extremely rigid shape and symbolizes the physical world. Advertisers use the square to evoke a message of professionalism. Law firms and other companies that exist in a highly structured environment would benefit from a square logo.
It is imperative to understand the language of shapes in order to properly brand products. Each shape conveys a distinct message to the consumer. Choosing the right one increase sales revenue and ultimately benefit the company.