Nearly four years ago, I asked the question, and attempted to answer: “Why do we love rounded corners?” Back then it hit quite a nerve, leading to an enlightening (and entertaining!) comment thread. But alas, I’m not sure we ever really arrived at the answer…until now.
Konigi recently posted an entry entitled Realizations of Rounded Rectangles, where he points to a bit of Mac history (folklore?) on UI&us. It’s an interesting tale of how Steve Jobs demanded roundedness in everything on the interface. Still, the most illuminating thought comes from Professor Jürg Nänni, a scholar on visual cognition:
A rectangle with sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort than for example an ellipse of the same size. Our “fovea-eye” is even faster in recording a circle. Edges involve additional neuronal image tools. The process is therefore slowed down.”
Professor Nänni is saying that rounded rectangles are literally easier on the eye. Put another way, compared to square-edged rectangles, rounded rectangles are more computationally efficient for the human brain. To me, this is a revelation. An idea that at the very least demands more investigation.
Looking back, the original rationale I threw out wasn’t too far off. It’s a fascinating puzzle and speaks to the intersection between visual aesthetics and interaction design.
I’m sure this isn’t the end of the debate. Nevertheless…progress!