Since the Macintosch conventions of 1984 (I-312) it's sort of standard practice - apart from the 'X' or 'V' to appear when selected - how checkboxes and radio buttons are shaped. Square shapes for checkboxes and circular shapes for (mutually exclusive) radio buttons.

This - by the way - doesn't mean we should stick to this the rest of our lives, and there are already some new forms of mutually exclusive radio groups since the era of mobile devices (without the circular shape), but I'm wondering where the use of roundly shaped checkboxes used by Google inbox and the Microsoft outlook app come from. Any ideas?

shape of checkboxes

  • 1
    If you're looking for more examples apparently Apple loves the circle checks (for iphone atleast). In Photos app in an album click "select" and start tapping photos they get a circle check mark. In Messages app long press a message and click "more" and each message gets a circle checkbox. Notes app, click Edit, you betcha' a whole bunch of circle checks. And surely many more examples.
    – DasBeasto
    Mar 29, 2017 at 13:02
  • 1
    Interesting. Of course I encountered them, but didn't really notice that they sort of implement them in all (mobile?) solutions. This doesn't solve the question about the 'why', but probably they just like the design of it more than using squares?
    – citizen81
    Mar 29, 2017 at 13:29
  • 1
    that's what I'm assuming, aesthetics. As long as it isn't used alongside radios it shouldn't be too confusing.
    – DasBeasto
    Mar 29, 2017 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


"Roundness" is understood/believed to change the feel and focus of a container, line, or other element. A curved line feels friendly and naturally leads the eye along a non-straight path without sharp turns.

Check this article out for some useful insight: http://uxmovement.com/thinking/why-rounded-corners-are-easier-on-the-eyes/

I'd hazard a common-sense guess -- without immediately available proof -- that square shapes were more prevalent in earlier digital design simply because they were visually cleaner. And possibly programmatically easier, where that's relevant. Now that we live in the age of high resolution screens, improved anti-aliasing, and better visual and technical tools, rounded corners are naturally (re-)emerging. IMO.

  • I think it's indeed both a shift in vision about the aesthetics of a circle being more 'polite' for the eyes as research points out and maybe a little on the new high(er) resolution screens. A little because we have these screens for some time now and the change to circluar radio buttons is fresh. I don't agree on the 'programmability' of the circles, since the radio buttons were already used from the start.
    – citizen81
    Apr 4, 2017 at 8:34
  • @citizen81 sure, the programmability thing was a bit of hand-waving, more a thought that perhaps there were some kind of technical concerns I don't know/remember. I'm sure you're right that "fresh newness" has something to do with the shift.
    – tobybot
    Apr 4, 2017 at 16:02
  • I'm waiting for round screens to come back in style. So much more friendly.
    – user67695
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:26
  • I'm holding out for somebody to invent square eyes, myself
    – tobybot
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.