The terms shape and form are often used,
interchangeably, in everyday speech, even in many
In this class, shape will refer to the “surface
definition” of two-dimensional entities, or those
entities that have flat surfaces. Shape is, also, the
visual counterpart to the conceptual - “plane”.
Form will refer to the “surface definition” of three
dimensional or voluminous entities, otherwise
known as solids.
A square drawn on paper is a shape; a cube
is a form.
THERE ARE TWO MAJOR CATEGORIES OF
SHAPES AND FORMS:
Geometric shapes are those made with by
mechanical means: straight lines, circles
and/or parts of circles -- the shapes you can
make with a ruler and a compass.
Geometric forms can be simple or complex.
Think of the inside of a clock or other piece of
machinery. Mechanical shapes and forms
are often associated with control and order.
Michel Larionof - costume for “Chout” - 1922
… AS WELL AS
O. Schlemmer – Bauhaus
Costume design -“Triadic Ballet”
… AS CAN
Robert Edmund Jones - Macbeth
Organic shapes are shapes found in nature,
and the shapes you draw freehand. They
are, generally, complex and have a natural,
spontaneous feel to them. Think of the
enormous variety and complexity of plant and
Shapes and forms have a contour, an outline,
or visible limits.* Because of this, they acquire
a particular line quality.
• Since shapes are two dimensional, they are always viewed
frontally and under assigned lighting conditions. Forms, on the
other hand, are viewed in given light conditions and against a
background and thus acquire an “illusory” contour.
1. Cube under normal light.
Full contour visible.
3. Same cube with color
And background contrast
2. Same cube with no contrast
in the background. Loss of
4. Same cube with no light.
No contour – No form
Like organic shapes, organic forms are found
in nature – and may be simulated in the
production of art and artifact. They can be
complex, amorphous (free form) and have a
natural, spontaneous feel to them.
Because shapes and forms, as inspired by
natural models, may be interpreted, they
may also be: simplified, complicated,
abstracted, stylized or distorted.
Ralph Koltai – Model for set for Don Giovanni
Shapes and forms may have both geometric and
Forms need not only be opaque.
They may be suggested or
Masks for two different
productions of Equus.
Similar to lines, shapes and forms can also be
expressive, and carry some psychological or
Members of the Nicolais Dance Company using
Spandex tubing to create various forms.
Loie Fuller – “Fire Dance” - 1910
Note the expressive quality of form.
Expressive quality of form
achieved through the use of
mask, costume and movement.
Masked figure interpreting
Domy Reiter-Soffer’s – “Journey”
Form in costume defining
the physical attributes of
Laura Crow – costume
Warp - 1973
In nature, forms often change or alter with development and
maturation. This process of changing from one form to another
is often termed metamorphosis, or “morphing”
We have seen this change in the development of a butterfly
from a caterpillar.
… or the maturation of a frog from a fertilized egg.
In the theatre, performers undergo a kind of metamorphosis,
often changing shape as well as personality from actor to
.. A beard, a latex nose , a little hair, some high and low
lights and voila! A new person!
Designers employ morphing techniques to aid in visualizing
these incremental changes from one entity to another, or
just for fun.
Flip books are morphic in
nature, because they show
incremental change, in this
case, story development.