The psychology of shapes: understanding the best fit for commercial design

When refurbishing commercial interiors, it is important to consider what shapes will suit the personalities of those utilising the space. This is where the concept of semiotics and the art of interpreting different shapes and symbols is key, as David Bigland, Managing Director for Moduleo UK and Eire, explains.



erspectives are transient and it can be hard to make reliable generalisations. Semiotics, however, seeks to understand how and why meanings of shapes are created, communicated and received by the mind’s eye.

A great place to start is to understand the psychological impact of each shape and what emotions it evokes. This helps to elevate a space and achieve positive perceptions.

Our Moods creative studio allows designers and consumers alike to play with a variety of shapes and pattern combinations to make for a truly optimum finish.

Here, we consider some popular shapes, the age-old meaning behind them and what settings they are ideally suited to.

Rectangles and squares

Symmetrical, right-angled shapes are all around and so it is no surprise that they subliminally influence us.

From computer screens to buildings, squares and rectangles connote uniformity and sturdiness. This often brings with it the feeling of us being in our comfort zone and improved confidence.

When applied to a business or office setting, these shapes often reflect professionalism and organisation, which helps to build a strong affinity towards the brand or company. In restaurants and bars, too, it helps to direct and persuade patrons to particular areas in the establishment, whether that’s for eating or just drinking.

For the ultimate in order and symmetry, the popular ‘zoning’ flooring trend would be ideal. This sees the art of different shapes and colours help to build a bespoke patterned floor. Featured alongside traditional wooden planks or tiles, the zoning effect helps highlight a space, defining a particular area within an interior; whether that is an office break-out room, meeting space, lobby or restaurant.

Using the Moods collection, designers have their pick of shapes, including squares and rectangles, to create a bold, patterned floor that emphasises the need for organisation and productivity.

Perfect for: corporate spaces, offices and hospitality interiors.


Triangles are steeped in subliminal meaning. When we think of triangles our influence is varied from the prominent Egyptian pyramids to everyday road traffic signs. This is because the tip of a triangle represents the pinnacle of an object and plays on our deep-rooted desire for success and ‘reaching the top’.

In popular culture, meanwhile, the triangle has been adopted by gamers as the ‘play’ button – demonstrating its universal nature to provide direction, action and winning.

Furthermore, utilising triangles in hotel lobbies, waiting rooms and receptions is also advised as the shape is also associated with being welcoming and directional, thanks to the point.

With a plethora of hidden meanings, triangles are ideally suited to a myriad of commercial interiors. From offices and education settings, where ambitions and achievements are a part of everyday lives, to lobbies and receptions where incentivising feelings of hospitality is key; the options are endless.

Either way, cushions, wall art and flooring will all help to evoke a positive mood and help people to get into the right mindset to succeed.

Best suited to: business and hospitality settings as well as educational facilities.

Hexagons and diamonds

The hexagon is a naturally-occurring shape and is most commonly found in honeycomb. By default, we associate the shape with bees and their teamwork and cooperative nature.

Community, creation and balance are just a few of the feelings evoked by this geometric wonder. This positive energy makes an attractive fit for creative industries.

Diamonds, meanwhile, are said to symbolise clarity, knowledge and quality. They were also originally said to be symbols of immortality and, to this day, still communicate excellence and sophistication.

Utilising hexagons alongside diamonds can go a long way when bringing a space to life and serves as an attractive focal point of the room.

Ideal for: creative office spaces and schools where teamwork, knowledge and cooperation are key.

Circles and curves

Round shapes are most synonymous with femininity. Our natural ties to maternity mean we associate the shape with new life and community.

Circles and curved shapes also evoke the feeling of support and continuity, particularly when we consider that the shape has no end and no beginning and we see wheels in motion.

Much like the triangle, curved furnishings such as pillows and cushions create a positive and comforting atmosphere that is ideal for receptions, hotels and leisure settings, where positivity and a welcoming vibe is key.

Consider for: spas, hotels, hospitals and receptions – any setting where positivity is required.

Whether it is the structure of squares and rectangles or the comfort or clarity of circles or diamonds, respectively, there is a place for every shape in commercial design.

Understanding which one suits what setting, however, is the key to heightening those all-important emotions that elevate the room from being more than just floors, walls and a ceiling to an all-encompassing experience for the senses.

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