What Makes a Shape Beautiful? Generating Logos & Appealing Shapes

What makes a shape appealing? Is it symmetry? Balance? Roundness? Some sort of mathematical proportion? What makes a shape ugly? Asymmetry? Imbalance? Sharpness? Is it possible to make a shape that is beautiful in the eyes of all those who view it?


by Steve
permalink · published: Jul 28, 2014 · updated: Jul 24, 2023
logos logo marks beauty shapes

What makes a shape appealing?  Is it symmetry?  Balance?  Roundness?  Some sort of mathematical proportion?  What makes a shape ugly?  Asymmetry?  Imbalance?  Sharpness?  Is it possible to make a shape that is beautiful in the eyes of all those who view it?  These questions have been asked for centuries.  Recent studies have published results that suggest there may be some universal truths to what people find beautiful (spoiler: roundness).  What does this have to do with logo design?  Maybe I can use this information to generate logo marks that are more appealing (“better”) which would create more more satisfied users and more sales.

I tried a couple very basic approaches to shape generation:

random blobs

1. Random blobs generated from noise:  Dead end.  These just looked terrible.  No symmetry or balance.  No way to control how many blobs.  No “beauty”.  Without any constraints, the shapes generated were “ugly”.  My gut told me to immediately abandon this approach.

random geometric shapes

2. Shapes built from geometric shapes: Promising, but too random.  There was structure in the shapes (patterns really), but no symmetry or beauty.  They looked like 2D bar codes.

Questions to apply to basic shapes built from geometric shapes:

  • How do I decide what colors to use?
  • How do I group the component shapes into a whole?

Solution: Seed the random shape generator with a sketch created by the user.  Of course!  A user generated sketch would determine the colors used and the basic shape of the final logo.

random shapes generated using a user sketch

3. Random shape generation using a sketch as input.

I found an HTML5 canvas sketch library written in JavaScript and hooked it into the logic.  I could now make a quick sketch and pass the input to the shape generation logic.  This was suddenly fun.  Fun to see what kinds of output I could get with these simple rules.  It worked, but needed some tweaks.   With some trial and error I got the default settings of the sketch canvas (line width, default colors, sketch dimensions, etc) to something that would lend itself as a good template for generating pleasing shapes with my existing shape generation algorithm.

The shape generation algorithm still needs a lot of work, but at this point I felt it was “good enough” that I could move on the to the next step.  The logic is modular enough that I can come back and improve it in the next iteration.

Try out shape generation using a sketch at logoshi.com/sketch-a-logo

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