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How shape contrast can improve marketing communications

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How shape contrast can improve marketing communications

Beyond Pixels

The techniques used to improve the effectiveness of marketing communications are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In today’s current economic climate, content alone is not going to be sufficient to sway customers towards your products and services. Everything from the font style you select to the colour of your background is going to send subtle messages to your audience, providing a subconscious image of what your company is about even before the text is read and understood. One of the most powerful influences which affect your consumers will be the shapes used in promotional literature and advertising. If this is an area of design which you’ve been neglecting, consider the following when planning your next project and look forward to a measurable difference in impact.

Shapes send messages

A number of research studies have shown that different shapes provoke varying emotions amongst the general public. Circles, for example, have a range of positive associations such as friendship, unity, communication, mutual commitment and an on-going relationship. It’s no accident that current Virgin Money communications are dominated by a series of circular photographs depicting a number of “feel good” moments; the combination of shape and imagery sends out an irresistibly engaging invitation. Squares and rectangles suggest dependability, but can be a little staid for many businesses. 

Virgin Money shape contrast

A break from the norm gets attention

Another reason why the Virgin Money circles work so well is because they are a contrast to the more usual rectangular and square shapes which dominate Internet communication. Irregular shapes or curves (think of the Santander logo, for example), provide a break from the more common symmetrical lines which dominate advertising material. Traditional Gestalt theories on the attraction which people have to regular, symmetrical shapes overlooks the positive impact which the unexpected might have. Whilst the creation of cognitive dissonance may not be suitable for all advertising, gaining attention through the unexpected use of shape is always a winner.

Santander shape contrast

Consider semiotics

The associations which people make between their previous experiences and specific shapes and icons form the basis for an entire field of unwritten communication. This can be put to good advantage when selecting the right shapes for the image you want to convey. Consider Natwest’s website for a moment; the chevron shapes created using text and image contrasts not only provide attention grabbing contrast, they also suggest progress, a way forward or a journey to be made.  

Natwest website shape contrast

If you haven’t considered the impact of shape in detail, it’s worth taking time to find out more about how the human psyche responds to variations and contrasts in line and dimension. Utilising this knowledge in your marketing communications will make a vital difference to its effectiveness.