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Use smile-like lines in your designs

Curved lines in your logo and branding can increase purchase intentions by up to 31% because they remind people of a smile.

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📝 Intro

Every detail of your designs, logo, or branding may matter and have a strong impact. That could be the colors you use, the font, and how structured the design feels.

Scientists discovered that even a simple curved line can change perceptions of your brand.

P.S.: Choose the right colors based on who you sell to, cold colors (e.g. blue) work best for B2B products, and warm ones (e.g. yellow) for B2C products.

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Upward curving lines on your logo or packaging make people like your product more

Topics: Brand & Strategy | Product
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B 
Research date: July 2015
Universities: University of Oxford, Giessen University, University of Rochester, Universidad de La Sabana

📈 Recommendation

Use an upward curving line on your product packaging or logo - like a smile - instead of downward facing or straight lines.

People will like your product more and will be more likely to buy it.

🎓 Findings

  • People prefer product branding (e.g. logos, product designs, packaging) that features an upward-facing curved line, compared to a straight line, downward-facing curved line, or no line. They are more likely to choose the product and more likely to intend to buy it.

  • As part of experiments run in both the UK and Colombia researchers found that:

    • For a tea box, showing an upward curved line on the packaging (vs a downward curved line) made people 22.9% (UK) to 30.9% (Colombia) more likely to say they would buy

    • For a shampoo bottle, showing an upward line (vs downward) led to 17.4% to 30.7% higher purchase intentions. They were 3.4% to 13.6% higher compared to a straight line and 10.4% to 24.3% higher compared to no line

    • Overall, on average, people chose a product with an upward curved line:

      • 20% more than when it had a downward curved line

      • 12% more than when it had no line

      • 3% more than when it had straight line

🧠 Why it works

  • When we see an upward facing curved line, we associate it with a smile. Smiles are linked in our minds to positive emotions and cooperative behavior.

  • Seeing something we interpret as a face influences how we react to the item. A subliminal smile, like an upward curved line, can increase our desire to use a product and how much we’re willing to spend on it.

  • In contrast, visuals we associate with a frown, like a downward facing line, don’t trigger the same effect, and potentially backfire.

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  • The research placed the lines (upward curving, downward curving or straight) at different locations on the packaging, but did not account for how these placement might affect how people respond to them. For example, when the line visual is at the bottom of the package, it may be less noticeable than when placed in the center or top of the packaging.

  • The study only tested three inexpensive physical products (shampoo, juice, and tea). More experiments are needed to better confirm the effect more broadly.

  • This research did not directly test placing upward facing lines on other design elements (e.g. a divider line on a website homepage). Given how central a logo is to brand identity, it’s unclear if this would have a similar effect.

  • Some brands may be best suited to be associated with smiles (e.g. fun and exciting products), while others may be less so (e.g. products for which reliability is crucial). This was not tested.

🏢 Companies using this

  • Some companies have included smile-like lines in their logos or product packaging. It’s unclear if this is specifically to increase purchase intentions, or a broader attempt to capitalize on the positive associations of smiles.

  • For example:

    • Grocery brand Argos places an upwards curving line underneath their name.

    • Yogurt brand Yoplait includes the line in a different color from their name and connects it to a starburst, to trigger associations to both a smile and a flower.

    • Telecom company Tigo includes a curved line underneath the g and o in its name, as well as a curved line above the name to resemble a smiling face with an open eye.

Some of the companies incorporating upward curved lines reminiscent of a smile in their company logo.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • When designing your logo or branding, try to include a line that looks like a smile (an upward curving line) in your design. Avoid curved lines that face downwards (reminiscent of a frown).

  • You can include this line underneath your company or product name, or in another prominent position to make the visual remind people of a smiling face.

  • Other research has found that using structured designs - straight lines, symmetry and geometric shapes - can make your brand feel more reliable and trustworthy, while unstructured design - curves, incomplete shapes and asymmetry can make you seem more exciting and fun.

🔍 Study type

Lab experiments

📖 Research

🏫 Researchers

Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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