SHAPES- by Kalyani Pramod

From my previous articles, we saw that all the elements of design interrelate. This is because all the elements are present in the design. One element cannot be present without the others. When we see colour, texture or line we see some form or shape.

We are born into the world of shapes. Growing up, we learn how to read them and how to translate visual images into information we need.

Shapes are formed by connecting lines. All shapes take up space and all have textures. Form or shapes are made by connecting lines (about which we discussed).

Shapes can be two-dimensional as a drawing on a piece of paper or can be three-dimensional as an object which can be seen from three or more sides. The two-dimensional shapes have only height and width. One can create an illusion of depth and make a shape to be perceived as three-dimensional on a piece of paper.

As with the other elements- colour, line and texture, the shapes can be structural or visual illusions.

                         Square                                                      Cube


The use of different kinds of lines creates different styles of shapes. By using various types of lines in varied combinations one can create an infinite variety of shapes.
Categories of shapes

  • Natural shapes 
  • Stylized shapes
  • Geometric shapes
  • Abstract shapes 

All the shapes whether two or three-dimensional, visual or structural, can be placed in one of the above four groups.
Natural Shapes
Shapes found in nature are called natural shapes. These shapes often reflect organic forms and are inherently familiar to us due to their prevalence in our surroundings. Natural shapes often exhibit intricate details and irregularities. Despite their complexity natural shapes often possess a sense of balance and harmony.


                       Sea shells                                                     Leaves


Stylized shapes

 Shapes that are simplified, modified, distorted or exaggerated are referred to as stylized shapes. They involve a deliberate departure from realistic portrayal for artistic or communicative purposes. Stylized shapes depict complex objects or concepts in simplified forms, often emphasizing essential characteristics or symbolic meaning.

                                        A child's drawing of a house

                                                    Symbols in public areas


Geometric shapes.

 Geometric shapes are those that can be formed mathematically or have the illusion of being formed mathematically. Simple geometric shapes are squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. They can be created using measuring instruments. They can also represent a natural object, for example, a star.


Geometric shapes                                       Geometric shapes created using measurements


Abstract shapes

 The best way to describe an abstract shape is to describe what it is notAny shape which does not belong to the previously mentioned groups is an abstract shape. A shape which doesn’t resemble anything we usually recognize. These shapes cannot be measured with measuring instruments or reproduced by measuring lines, angles or radii. They are free forms. They are unique in themselves.

Abstract shapes can be formed with straight or curved lines or any combination of these lines.



                  Abstract shapes                             Painting made using abstract shapes




Patterns are formed when shapes are grouped together. They can be grouped with natural shapes or stylistic shapes. Different arrangements of these shapes create patterns. They can be natural, abstract, geometric or stylized. A pattern can be made by combining naturally shaped flowers put together in squares or a pattern might be a combination of geometric shapes in random or abstract arrangement. Sometimes a pattern may not be oblivious because it is formed by the negative space created by the grouping of shapes rather than the actual lines or shapes.



    Patterns that occur in nature                                              Patterns in art


Shapes form the fundamental building blocks of visual communication and artistic expression. Shapes are all around us, inviting interpretation and evoking emotional responses. They serve as a tool for conveying meaning and organizing space.
We hope to dwell on the different characteristics of shapes when we meet again.


Kalyani Pramod is a Designer, Artist, Fibre artist, Design teacher, Mentor and also a Director in Shuttles & Needles. She writes a series of articles in the newsletter about Elements of Design in simple non-technical language for everyone to understand the concepts easily.

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