The meaning of shapes

I am being inspired by Visual Meetings at the moment. This book is helping me to develop a whole new way of representing people’s ideas – through graphics.

The author, David Sibbett, suggests that symbols, shapes and pictures can get to the heart of an issue more efficiently than words: “Meaning is anchored in our experiences not in the rules of grammar”. This is because the basic movements used to make shapes are universal as: “…they flow from how we are shaped as humans.”. He illustrates this with the basic shapes:

  • Points= ‘Look here’, ‘I’m different’. They stand out on a white page.
  • Lines= ‘Connect’ or ‘Separate’. They’re about relationships (the heavier the line, the stronger the relationship).
  • Angles= ‘Active change’.
  • Squares/rectangles= ‘Formal organisation’.
  • Hollow arrows= ‘Active organisation’. By putting together the meanings of angles and squares/rectangles.
  • Spirals= ‘Dynamic unity’.
  • Circles= ‘Unity’.

I practised using graphics when writing up a summary of a recent meeting (but before I had read this part of the book):

The hollow arrows I used do express the ‘active organisation’ of the main themes identified (‘formally organised’) and the ‘active changes’ participants wanted to make. The circles gather together in ‘unity’ the ideas expressed in the meeting.

I believe shapes and graphics really have the power to express and share ideas with more impact.


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