What’s in a shape? More thinking and planning than an onlooker might ever know. The shape is the most basic part of a logo, and yet plenty of research goes into its conceptualization.

In a recent study by INSEAD, one of the leading business schools worldwide, Professor Amitava Chattopadhyay and his team looks into how the shape of a logo affects people’s opinions.

Circular vs. Angular
Although it is a well-known fact that people associate circles with “softness” and angular shapes with “hardness,” the researchers wanted to determine whether these associations would apply to logos. They conducted an experiment with a total of 178 respondents by having them look at sofa and shoe advertisements that included angular logos, circular logos, and ads with no logos at all. True enough, they discovered that the respondents identified sofas and shoes with circular logos as more “comfortable.” On the other hand, they perceived sofas and shoes with angular logos as more “durable.”

“Priming” Effect
NYU Professor Tom Meyvis commented that the INSEAD findings may be attributed to “priming.” He describes priming as the “preparation” of a specific concept in a person’s mind by showing him or her something that is related to that concept.

Interestingly, priming does not only apply to the product, but also to how a person perceives the producer or company itself. In another study, Chattopadhyay’s team had 95 respondents look at either angular or circular logos, then presented them with a scenario: a man attempting to board a plane with overweight luggage. They were asked how they think the airline would deal with the situation; would they let the man board with his luggage or not? The experiment found that respondents who looked at circular logos thought that the airline would sympathize and be more sensitive towards the man, compared to respondents who looked at angular logos.

Expressing the Right Message
Based on these experiments, Chattopadhyay suggests that when companies design their logos, they should really think carefully about the messages that they want people to associate with their brand. Moreover, he explains that it is important for the elements – the ad headline and logo, for example — to fit together; or else, the ad will not express the right message. He adds further that even the shape of the packaging may also affect people’s opinions.

Of course, while this article highlights the importance of shape in designing a logo, the other elements should also be taken into consideration. Chattopadhyay states that the shape is just one part of the design. Other things – aroma, color, sound, and taste – are just as equally important, as these cues also influence a person’s behavior.