Have you ever wondered why clients always prefer logos with curves rather than logos with interesting angles? Have you noticed that your favorite smartphones, tablets, and laptops tend to have rounded corners? What’s the big deal with those curves and rounded corners?
People prefer objects with curves—a preference that’s evident even in brain scans. This field of study is called neuroaesthetics.
Does The Couch Have Curves?
While Moshe Bar was the director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital he and his team used images of everyday and abstract objects to see if people had a preference for objects with curves. In one of their early studies, Bar and Maital Neta (2006) showed people 140 pairs of objects. Some objects were concrete, such as watches or couches (the A objects in Figure 1.1), some were abstract (the B objects), and some had both curves and edges (the C objects). The C objects acted as baseline controls.
FIGURE 1.1 Original images used by Moshe Bar (https://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barlab/).
People gave higher “liking” ratings to the objects with curves. Bar and Neta’s theory was that the sharp and angled images conveyed a sense of threat.
Does The Balance Of The Image Matter?
Paul Silvia and Christopher Barona (2009) wanted to see if it mattered whether the objects in an image were balanced (Figure 1.2) or unbalanced (Figure 1.3). Balanced or not, people still preferred the curved objects.
FIGURE 1.2 A balanced image.
FIGURE 1.3 An unbalanced image.
FIGURE 1.4 A complex, angular shape.
FIGURE 1.5 A complex shape with slightly curved edges.
Again, people preferred the objects with curves.
Helmut Leder, Pablo Tinio, and Bar (2011) asked whether this preference for curves was true for both “positive” objects (birthday cakes and teddy bears) and “negative” objects (razor blades and spiders). The results? People preferred curves in objects that were either positive or neutral, but there was no preference for curves in negative objects.
Nike, Apple, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and dozens of other well-known brands use one or more curves in their logos, so they’ve obviously done their design homework.
Curves Stimulate The Brain
Ed Connor and Neeraja Balachander from John Hopkins University (unpublished) took this idea into a neuroimaging lab. They used an abstract shape similar to the shape on the left in Figure 1.6, and then made a series of similar but elongated shapes like those in the rest of Figure 1.6.
FIGURE 1.6 Curved and rounded shapes versus elongated shapes.
Not only did people prefer the softly rounded shape like the one on the left, there was more brain activity in the visual cortex when they viewed shapes that were more curved and more rounded.
- People prefer curves.
- When you’re creating a logo, incorporate some form of curve in the design.
- When you’re creating areas of color on a screen, consider using a “swoosh” or curved shape.
- When you’re designing actual products—such as smartphones, remote controls, medical devices, or other hand-held items—use curved surfaces.