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Elements of Design for VM Part 3: Shape/Form

Welcome to Part 3 of our Elements & Principles of Design Series where we will be discussing the Element ‘Shape’ and its three-dimensional version ‘Form’.


You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.

– Dr. Seuss


About Shape:

We generally refer to the appearance of an object as having a particular shape determined by its outward boundaries or outline. Psychologists have suggested that humans mentally break down images they see into simple geometric shapes. They can be categorised into either a natural/organic shapes which are irregular and unstructured, appearing more fluid and soft. Or alternatively, geometric shapes that are structured such as square, triangles or circles that can appear somewhat more rigid.

About Form:

Form is the three dimensional version of shape which goes a step further to imply that the outline contains something. For example, the form of a person depicts not only the surface but we infer that it contains something within.

How we use Shape/Form:

Particular shapes can create different effects and are an important consideration when designing for either two dimensional or three dimensional compositions. Repeated shapes, even in different sizes, can create a sense of unity, whilst contrasting shapes can add interest. Using too many or dissimilar shapes can create visual conflict and unbalance the composition. Form can indicate what type of ‘thing’ something is, and thereby communicate to the viewer information about its identity of function. A generic form such as that of a human can be presented realistically or abstractly in some way, to create a different mood.


1. Here the designer has cleverly combined rigid geometric cylindrical forms in such as way that the overall effect appears fluid and organic.

2. The soft elliptical and spherical form of the props in this display perfectly mirrors and accentuates the soft, feminine design of the dress and its lace patterns.

3. Spheres and open teardrop shapes create an organic effect in this window, minimising the rigid modern lines of the products on display.

4. A form that is at once both geometric and organic is created using rectangular shapes at folded at different angles to form a bending, fluid concertina effect.

5. Simple geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles create a modern, clean display in this window.

6. Two dimensional rectangular shapes are elevated into the third dimension, forming this geometric maze and leading the viewers eye both around and into the window.


Stay tuned for Part 4 of our series where we will discuss the element ‘Space’.


In case you missed it here is:

Part 1: Introduction to the Elements and Principles of Design for VM

Part 2: Elements of Design: Line

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