Shaping Your Brand Identity

There is more to a logo than a name. LMD designer Dean explains how we (and Pixar) use shapes to convey emotion and messages.

Why does your local steakhouse restaurant’s sign have bold, blocky letters while the flower shop has thinner, round letters? If they swapped fonts, their signs would no longer accurately represent their establishments. When visually designing anything, it is important to know what emotions and associations you want to evoke in the audience—and shapes carry a lot of weight in this department. 

Squares, circles, and triangles are the most universal and basic shapes in nature and the building blocks of design and lettering. You might not think about it consciously, but there are strong psychological ties to shapes that are rooted in early humans.

The symbolic use of shapes can be seen in animated cartoons and movies. A classic example of this is the Pixar film, Up:

Carl is the stubborn, sturdy one who is balanced by Eleanor’s warmth and dynamic personality. When Eleanor dies, the roundness in Lewis and Dug compensate for her warmth, while also introducing Carl to risk and adventure (symbolized by Lewis’ and Dug’s sharp tops and bottoms). When they all come together in a foreign land, the Bird (Kevin) is the exotic oddball.

Some of these characters are made with combined or multiple shapes. Doing so combines their meanings, with the dominant shape representing their most prominent characteristic. Their shapes alone are not the only factors that define these characters, but they serve as their foundation.

Brand identities are “characters” too and can benefit from the same considerations when it comes to choosing shapes for them. When creating the MyEMMA logo, we used round corners and clean strokes to create a geometric font that elevated this message, with the lowercase characters in “emma” serving as a sturdy rectangular base. The result connotes friendliness and reliability. The three circles beneath show movement and suggest a process. In all? A logo that suggests safety, friendliness, and reliability—all important aspects of a product that manages complex medication regimens.

SBA approached LMD to rebrand the federal agency, and needed a logo that communicated a modernized organization. LMD created a contemporary logo with the SBA letters in a square to symbolize the stability of the federal agency serving as a solid foundation for small businesses. The “A” became a triangle, pointing upward representing growth and a positive direction. This logo says that the SBA is strong, stable, and forward-looking.

How can you use shapes to your advantage when creating a brand identity for your organization? LMD can help.  


An experienced graphic designer, Dean has developed creative for a wide variety of media including merchandise, educational material, print advertising and video. Dean has worked to help develop and implement creative rebranding for federal and county government, non-profit, and commercial...Read more