Click Play - Video by Abby Asma


A Shape consists of a precisely defined area of a picture plane.  Contour lines that enclose an area form a shape.   They outline the area occupied by the subject.  

Shapes are also defined as solid areas that do not necessarily have outlines.  Squares, circles, triangles, trapezoids, hexagons, ovals, parallelograms and rectangles are all two-dimensional shapes based on geometric formulas.  There is no ambiguity about their configuration.  

Shapes are not forms because they do not occupy three dimensional space.  Shapes are two-dimensional; they’re flat.  A square is a shape while a cube is a form made up of squares.  A circle is a shape, and a sphere is a form.  A triangle is a shape, and a pyramid is a form. 

Shapes communicate

When we use the admonishing phrase “Shape-up,” we are saying something like, “You are not conforming to the parameters of your prescribed description.  You’ve violated your predefined formula. You’re supposed to be a circle and you’re a little lumpy or jagged in your circumference.  You are not conforming; shape-up.”  Shapes communicate through their configurations as much as printed words dialogue in our heads when we read.  

Open shapes convey degrees of expansiveness, while closed shapes can communicate an uptight and self-contained feeling.  We equate openness with being teachable, promoting progress and movement.  The idea behind a closed thing is that it’s hard to penetrate.  A closed vault keeps millions locked up.  This could be a good thing if you know the combination.


Closed doors when driving on the autobahn in a sports car preserves life.  The concepts of open and closed shapes communicate because we’ve experienced feelings of open and closed.  We naturally read these impressions and graphically express them with how we use shape.

These images demonstrate how shapes communicate attitude and mood.  These images are similar in color and texture, yet they do not project identical energies.  One is more vibrant and explosive, while the other is quiet and still.  The egg-shape is motionless, practically asleep with a glowing nightlight.  Its neighbor, the vertical image, parties like a rock star.  It’s not contained but explosive and active.  Shapes talk; sometimes they sing, sometimes they whisper, and sometimes they sleep. 

Photo by Josh

Here we have the somewhat closed shape of the car perched on the open shape of its supporting structure.  

Organic shapes evoke feelings of life and activity.

The overlapping geometric shapes of signage, in our studio coffee shop, create a buzz of activity.  The metal grid backdrop and shapes of related patterns and colors look caffeinated. 

Meanings of Shapes

Have you ever seen a more melancholy car in your life?  Everyone knows that cars can’t smile or frown.  Or can they?  

Do we innately create stuff with human features?  Do we create in our image?  After all, God created us in His image; perhaps we create in ours.   God is our Creator and we are his childlike imitators.  We are so keenly aware of the nuances and impact of facial expressions that we inadvertently mimic them in our creations. 

There are specific associations we have with various shapes, especially squares.  A military man was asked about the food provided in the service.  He replied, “I received three square meals a day.”  

A square conveys the ideas of exactness, wholesomeness and righteousness.  The three meals measure up to a standard.  A square has exact standards, four equal sides and four 90-degree angles.  A square deal is one in which both parties mutually benefit.  On the other hand, the phrase “out of the box” implies breaking traditional boundaries of a closed, square container - being creative in ways previously not imagined.  

“Don’t be a square” permeated conversations during the 1960’s Hippie era.  

The circle is a symbol of eternity—no beginning and no end.  A rainbow, when seen from above, is a perfect circle, a symbol of God’s unending promise to Noah that a flood would never again destroy the earth.  

The wedding ring is a symbol of the marriage covenant, which should last as long as the two shall live.  Throughout history the circle remains a central motif in religious art.

The number three and the triangle are inseparable in shape and meaning:
  God is a triune God; the trinity is indivisibly one.  
  A “Triangle” can also refer to conspiracies or awkward relational issues.  
  Pyramids (3D forms made of juxtaposed triangular planes enclosing and occupying space) are great symbols of an Egyptian belief system.  
  A “Pyramid Scheme” is a business plan of sorts.  

The shape and form of the triangle sings stability with a broad and deep bass voice.  The triangle’s base occupies the largest area of its form.  It’s not a flimsy or a floppy unit of design from an engineering or artistic standpoint.  The great pyramids of Egypt are not likely to roll over of their own volition.  They’ve held their ground for thousands of years.  

Imagine that an earthquake is about happen.  You want to get away.  You are granted superpowers to transport yourself to one of two places.  Choice number one: downtown Boston between rectangular skyscrapers, or choice number two: the great burial grounds of Egyptian Pharaohs—between two triangular pyramids.  You’re the little yellow person illustrated below.  Which of the choices offers the greatest safety?  There you have it!  Triangles say stability more than vertical rectangles.   


Implied and Obvious Shapes

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa employs the stability of a triangular composition.  It’s subtle, yet it’s there.  His calming composition frees the viewer to be magnetically fused with Mona’s questionable gaze.  What’s happening in her head?  What was Da Vinci thinking?  What was his relationship with her?  If Leonardo had cluttered the background and foreground with other subject matter we might have overlooked the mystery of her curious and provoking countenance.   

Shape is not always subliminal as in the above work.  You see, an artist can use bold shapes.  His expression becomes blatant and in your face, as in the black and white architectural drawings below.   Do you see the power of shape in these illustrations?   


This stark illustration on the left utilizes the simplest lines and shapes to smack us with a harsh, defining light source falling on this 20th century building.  Here we see a powerful marriage of crisp lines and geometric shapes.  There’s no subliminal fuzz-factor here.  

In the real world, shapes are not always hard edged.  In the photo above, light gently graces the shape of Cameron’s profile and softens the definition of the airplane window.  The dark shadows obscure the shape of his hairline, his ear, lips and everything that surrounds him.  

What is this image, and how did the photographer create it?  We are magnetically drawn to the human shape.  It connects us to this photo as we read the subtle nuances of the figure.  The viewer is then further intrigued by the textures and colors.

Impending Power of Shapes

What is this image, and how did the photographer create it?  We are magnetically drawn to the human shape.  It connects us to this photo as we read the subtle nuances of the figure.  We are then further intrigued by the textures and colors.

Logos and icons broadcast; they publicize their products.  Yellow arches yell McDonald’s the world over.  Ronald McDonald was actually the second most recognized personality on planet Earth in 2005.  Kellogg’s, Ford, Gucci, National Geographic and Apple have their simplistic shapes that get in your face and hopefully into your pocket.  Shape sells.   A slender mannequin and a sumo wrestler have a lot in common; their shapes determine their cultural clout.  

Shapes talk, and so it is in the world of iconography.  Christians have a rich history and tradition of symbolic communication through images of the cross, the Holy Spirit dove, and many others that may be denominational icons.  

One of my personal favorites is the renowned Jesus-Fish.  Yes, that cheap, plastic refrigerator magnet or bumper sticker fish, the regular guy’s bold declaration that he is a Christian.  For only a few cents anyone can advertise Jesus.  Is this cheesy or sincere?  

The famous Jesus-Fish symbol turns off some folks of a more delicate palette for graphic sophistication.  It’s all about personal taste.  Can you get past its inexpensive plastic and read the message of its shape?  

Let’s remember, this Jesus-Fish shape swam against the current of mainstream society, until 300 AD when Christianity was mandated by law.  The original symbol carried grand significance, a life or death significance, while today it’s a glib figure amidst a barrage of icons.  It’s not so radical any longer.  The poor fish has lost its impact both visually and symbolically.  What can we do about this?

Challenge One -

Save the fish!  It’s time for an upgraded Jesus-Fish.  Oh yeah!  Make it happen.  This is your challenge.  Shape it up.  Work from this simple yet powerful truth from history.  Jesus Christ came to this earth from heaven to become a man and show us the way of salvation through the sacrifice of His life.  He was crucified for our sin.  He was buried and rose from the grave.  He sent the promise of the Holy Spirit, by which we are fully equipped to spread the saving knowledge of Him to others.  Jesus ended the reign of the Law by ushering in a new and living relationship whereby we can walk in the Law of the Spirit.  Oh Yeah and Amen!  

There’s more! Jesus replaced the Old Testament Law with New Testament Life through an intimate relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit and our Heavenly Father.  In the place of sin is righteousness by His shed blood. In place of guilt is freedom.  Doubt is defeated with the assurance of salvation.  The devil and hell are no long era threat.  Heaven is our citizenship and home.  Sin and death give way to salvation and new life.  Our best, but futile, human efforts give way to divine empowerment by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Love replaces vengeance and hatred.  Joy dispels depression and worry.  Peace reigns in the midst of strife and war. 

Wow!  We have a lot to celebrate by upgrading the centuries old Jesus-Fish!  Make it talk.  The old fish did its job.  It simply stated, “I’m a Christian.”  That’s great, and it did the job in the first century, especially when we understand how it protected early Christians.  However, its look and former function is outdated. It’s become a mass produced relic.  

The message of the Jesus-fish has to communicate differently than it did over 2000 years ago.  The current social climate requires a vibrant message of life and power.  Just as the shape of the Corvette has morphed over the years to maintain its roadworthy prowess, so Christianity now has more of a global influence than ever.  We’ll shift a few gears to help the fish catch up graphically to what it truly represents spiritually. 

At the same time, Christians should never think they should keep up with fleeting social trends like automotive manufacturers.  However, we can learn from Chevy’s Vette and be those who set the benchmark high.  And let’s remember, there’s more to a Corvette than its looks; it’s a powerful, well designed machine.   What’s under the hood matters so much that the outward body design emulates its power and speed.  Oh yeah!  Our Fish should sing and dance its message because of what’s in our hearts!  Yes, it’s time.  Christianity is fun, it’s challenging, it’s colorful, it’s arduous and it’s transformational.  It’s worthy of an upgraded logo that looks like the message and the life it perpetuates.   


 Research the Internet to discover the original meaning of the letters F-I-S-H. 
Write a one-page paper about the historic origins of the fish symbol.  Use the following questions to launch your study, but be sure to follow whatever direction you choose along the way. 
You must cite at least three Internet resources in the body of your paper. 
What is the origin of the letters f - i – s – h?
Has the word “fish” come to represent Christianity because so many of the disciples were fishermen?
What were the consequences for being a Christian during the first century?

2. Logo Creation - Update the Jesus-Fish.
Keep in mind that logo updating should always build upon the former logo; use some familiar visual elements of the old logo in the new logo.  This minimizes the loss of followers.  For example, if Ford drastically altered its simple logo it would take years to reestablish the immediate recognition of the new logo/symbol.  Customers could be lost. 
Canvas size:	8.5x1
Resolution:	300
Program:		Photoshop

Ask yourself the following questions as you make graphic choices while updating the FISH:
What fish shape best conveys my impression of Christianity?
What colors will I use to speak truth about Christianity?
How well will this logo transfer into black and white or a gray scale?
What is the perfect balance of detail and simplicity?
Should I create several logos? 

Challenge Two -

Visualize a store shelf stocked bottles of whatever…salad dressing, shampoo, soda or any other product that comes in clear or tinted bottles.  Imagine a person, yourself or a friend, inside of the bottle, cramped, with your face, hands, etc. all pressed against the glass.  There are innumerable possibilities for expressing your thoughts through this sort of imagery.  What might it mean to viewers when they see you in a bottle poignantly labeled? 

The possibilities are endless.  Perhaps the person in the bottle is very happy and offers great solutions to life’s challenges.  On the other hand the one in the bottle may be living out a well-deserved confinement.  How many people can you put in the bottle and why?  Think of the possibilities for creative expression while focusing on the use of shape and size modifications. This could be extremely powerful with the right message.  

This guy in a Coke bottle is a work in progress.  We are clueless about the meaning of this image.

Challenge Three 
Impact your viewers with oversized or undersized imagery.  Create a shocking graphic by juxtaposing subjects that have ridiculous modifications to their shapes and/or sizes.  

Concept title: “My Big Fat Future.”  Think about the enormity of your future, which includes years of university study (piles of books), tuition (mounds of money, check books, and credit cards), relationships (family and college friends) and employment.  Either giganti-size the images of these burdens or shrink and perhaps squash the image of you under these burdens.  Maybe you are wearing a high school graduation cap and gown.  What a great way to communicate the reality of a high schooler’s thoughts about his impending future. 

Another concept title: “My Future - A Piece of Cake.”  Oh yeah!  Totally flip the concept and message of “My Big Fat Future.”  The featured image in this project is a cake, and each “Piece of Cake” has superimposed upon it an element of your blessed future.  How graphically entertaining.

The majority of the imagery used in this project must be original photography.  Include a concept title or catch phrase to raise the volume of your message. 

Image and canvas size:  22x28
Resolution: 300
Mode:  RGB

Challenge FOUR 
CREATE YOUR  PLANET...............    

Created by Levi

Create Your Planet
 Do the tutorial at this website:
 Carefully follow each step to create the exact image.
 Move forward and be creative by making this project your own.  Right... 
    Add other imagery
    Play with filters
    Introduce an absurd, out-of-context element
    Include words to further communicate your thoughts 

Created by Dylan

Created by Summer


-	Shapes are precisely defined areas of a picture plane. 
-	Standard shapes (square, rectangle, octagon, trapezoid, etc.) are based on geometric formulas. 
-	Shapes are flat, whereas forms are 3-dimensional
-	Shapes communicate openness and closedness, stillness and activity.
-	Shapes have symbolic meanings.
-	Car grills often take on human personalities..
-	We create things in our unique images just like God created us in His image.
-	Even the names of shapes communicate meaning.  A circle has no beginning and no end.   
-	A triangle has many meanings and is the most stable shape with a broad base.
-	The Mona Lisa employs a hidden triangular composition.  
-	Shapes range from subtle and subliminal to bold and harsh. 
-	We are naturally drawn to the human shape.  We instinctively relate and read the subtle nuances of the human figure. 
-	The size factor of a shape carries great weight and power.  
-	Logos are powerful, moneymaking shapes.
-	Christian shapes include the cross, the dove, and the fish. 
-	Knowing Jesus Christ and becoming a home for the Holy Spirit is fun, challenging, colorful, arduous and transformational.
-	The Jesus-Fish symbol embodies the truth of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  It also means that the bearer of the Fish symbol is a lively believer and follower of Jesus Christ.  
-	The Old Testament Law is replaced with New Testament life and relationship.
-	Futile human efforts to be good are replaced with the power of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us every day.


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