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Shapes and lines are powerful design elements that can be used strategically to guide viewers’ eyes and add visual interest. Take a look at any logo design, business card, brochure, or even a website and you’ll see how shapes and lines are used collectively as the building blocks of a composition. Designers use lines and shapes for a few important reasons, including:

  • To call attention to important pieces of information (often text)
  • To separate different pieces of information
  • To add visual appeal

Read on to understand the effects of lines and shapes so you can use them to their fullest in your next project.

Using lines in your design

Lines create visual hierarchy by dividing designs into sections and separating dissimilar content. They are excellent organizational elements because they create separation between text or visual elements. This makes then indispensable in most designs, especially layouts involving a lot of information.

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A line creates separation between text. Edit this template in Shutterstock Editor

Smaller, thinner lines can also act as a sort of visual punctuation to add structure to a composition by suggesting division without creating firm distinctions. This is why you will often see thin, short lines used just underneath titles or headings on many webpages. The title needs to be distinct but not completely separated from the rest of the information. A list of blog entries, for instance, may be separated by thicker, bolder lines because each portion can stand on its own.

In this flowchart, lines are used to lead the viewer’s eye from one piece of information to the next. Image by SurfsUp.

You will see lines used in very different ways in a flowchart or infographic. In these types of designs, lines are used to lead the viewer’s eye from one piece of information to the next. Some infographics visually “unfold” as the viewer explores them and lines can help this visual journey. Curved lines add interest to an otherwise dull design, making them a powerful element for infographic or flowchart creation.

Using shapes in your design

Although any imaginable shape can be used in design, straight-edged shapes are the most frequently used. This includes squares, rectangles, triangles, pentagons, hexagons, and more.

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A square is used to highlight the message. Edit this image in Shutterstock Editor

Irregular shapes like blobs or bursts are used sparingly for visual impact. But smooth, symmetrical shapes are usually the first choice of designers because they suggest balance, harmony, precision, and security. On the other hand, asymmetrical shapes can be used to suggest motion, speed, dynamism, and excitement.

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A circle elegantly frames the key message. Edit this template in Shutterstock Editor

Because text naturally forms blocky lines and rectangles, boxes are often used to highlight important pieces of information. Boxes can have rounded corners or other tiny details that make them more interesting, but they shouldn’t be so busy as to detract from the message. Single words or very short phrases can be placed inside circles easily and circular shapes make elegant frames for images.

Experiment with shapes for yourself by selecting a few Shutterstock photos and importing them into our online Editor. With just a few clicks you can see how a circular outline transforms a picture, giving it a totally different feel and meaning. Perfectly square images are ideal for social media use; you can quickly crop a picture down to a perfect square that displays your preferred portion of the image.

Bringing your ideas to life

Lines and shapes are simple design choices but they can have surprisingly powerful results. Experiment with lines of different colors and densities and explore the possibilities of shape to frame important text and pictures. Have the confidence to experiment in Editor – you never know when the next breakthrough might happen.

Top image by Kraphix.