Attack of the cornered circles

Take a good look at the compilation of images above. It only takes a couple of seconds to spot what they all have in common — they contain a variation of the same graphical element which, from this point on, I’ll refer to as a ‘cornered circle’. Why this name? Well, being unable to source an official descriptive term for the shape, it’s what I’ve been calling them every time I’ve spotted one over the last 3–4 years. And that’s quite a lot.

Ever since turning my attention, and career for that matter, towards web design, my sense of graphical awareness across the web, in print, textiles, everywhere, has become somewhat heightened. Some pretty obvious trends, some more subtle, and then others that appear blatant to me yet appear under the radar of most — the cornered circle being the latter. So who really cares, right? Well, when you can’t stop seeing them absolutely everywhere you will too!

I get up in the morning to have my breakfast — there’s a cornered circle on the cereal box. The post arrives — flyers for local businesses have cornered circles plastered all over them. I go out to the street — the sides of Dublin taxis are covered in giant cornered circles. Billboards, bus stops, posters, magazines, supermarkets — this shape is everywhere. And I haven’t even mentioned web graphics and logos yet.

Now this is just taking the piss. [Source:]

Clearly if this were a circle, triangle, or other basic geometric shape, it wouldn’t matter as these are the basic building blocks of graphical form. But the cornered circle, which is essentially a circle with a 90° sector extended into a square, goes a step beyond basic geometry and is therefore, technically, designed. And it is not the fact of its use, but the extent to which it is repeated so much even by various brands as their ‘unique’ identifier, that makes it jump out at me every time I see one.

So what’s going on here? Is there actually a name for this shape commonly referred to by graphic designers that I’m not aware of? Is there some other meaning it could convey that I’m just not seeing? Or is it sheer laziness in the design world excused by reasons like ‘If it works for them it’ll work for us’? Either way, I think it’s use is getting close to saturation point, in my humble opinion.

Donal Donohoe is a web developer in Dublin who occasionally writes ideas and observations on human interaction with design and technology.

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