The Essential ways to use Circles in Graphic Design

The Essential ways to use Circles in Graphic Design

We encounter circles pretty much everywhere we step foot in life. Be it a spinning bike wheel, a tumbling apple or a football flying through the air there’s just no escaping them.

And it’s this familiarity that means graphic designers should always keep a couple in their back pocket to give an engaging quality to their designs.

But you can’t just pepper a project with circles and hope for the best. No, you have to understand what a circle is and how it can help your project, so let’s give them the once over.

What is a Circle?

I know, I know! We all know what a circle is, but do we really know a circle?

First off, it’s a perfect shape with no corners, just one smooth continuous unbroken line. And it’s this construction which engenders it with some unique qualities.

The enveloping nature of the circle – much like a pair of comforting arms – allows them to deliver a sense of protection. This makes them perfect for adding gentle and tender highlights to your projects.

Circles, with their smooth, closed constructs also allow them to become fantastic visual points to draw a viewer’s attention and then fix it to digest the contents. And this is why you’ll find some many successful logos adopting this design e.g. Pepsi, Burger King, BMW.

Multiple circles – in the form of rings – also allow graphic designers to promote feelings of togetherness and unity. Just take a look at the Olympic logo for proof that they can symbolise partnerships in such a simple, but beautiful manner.

And what does that continuous, fluid shape of a circle perfectly represent? Yes, of course, it’s movement, so circles can really help propel your designs with a sense of pace and direction where squares and rectangles would be far too rigid.

Designing with Circles

Yeah, so circles certainly have a lot going for them and can really help graphic designers shade their projects with the right emotions, but how should they be used?


Well if there’s one thing that people can’t help but be drawn to and interact with then it’s buttons! And circles make for the most recognisable (and most inviting to click) buttons, so they should be the go to shape when working on user interfaces – especially if they’re to trigger a ‘call to action’ e.g. a ‘sign up now’ button.


As a graphic designer you must be aware just how hot infographics are at the moment. They allow huge blocks of text to be reduced to their basics and flow easily through the use of shapes.

And our old friend, the circle, can be put to devastating effect in infographics.

Using a circle within a circle is a fantastic way to give a sense of proportion, so if you ever need to compare two measurements e.g. total revenue of a business against that business’ profit then using a proportional circle chart can really hammer home the figures.

Pie charts, as well, are perfectly suited for infographics as their simple shape allows complex information to be summed up succinctly whereas a bar chart would cause the viewer to do a little more work and estimation.

Venn diagrams are also becoming increasing popular infographics and they’re quite literally circle crazy. Numerous circles combine with each one representing a particular element, but where these circles overlap is where the different elements relate. It sounds a bit baffling written down, but in practice it’s very effective, so check out this superhero Venn diagram to get a better idea.

Don’t forget, circles are also a useful tool to break up the monotony of squares, rectangles and arrows which litter the more tedious infographics out there which become a struggle to read and are devoid of any joy.

Background Patterns

The seamless nature of a circle creates a tranquil atmosphere, so they’re just perfect for graphic designers to deploy as background patterns. By bringing their calming edge to designs, circles allow for the emphasis to shift to the information they surround such as logos or blocks of text. And this just isn’t possible with more harsh shapes such as squares and rectangles which are too disruptive.

The Letter O

One of the simplest uses of circles is to exploit their round shape when working with the letter O, which just happens to be a circle! Instead of using the standard O character, try replacing it with a circular item e.g. if you were redesigning the Wimbledon tennis tournament logo you could substitute the O in ‘Wimbledon’ with a tennis ball. It may sound relatively simple, but sometimes it can deliver a playful edge to lift a design.

Circles, then, are curious beasts and one that graphic designers can use in a variety of ways to colour their designs with emotive and eye catching facets.



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