Kiki & Bouba

Our Kiki & Bouba design is one of our most popular and has always been a personal favourite of mine. However, it is more than just a fun design! The Kiki/Bouba effect is a fascinating cognitive phenomenon that explores the intriguing relationship between visual shapes and sound symbolism. This concept, first studied by psychologist Wolfgang Köhler in the early 20th century, reveals a cross-modal association wherein individuals consistently match specific sounds to particular visual shapes, highlighting a universal tendency in human perception.

In Köhler's original experiment, participants were presented with two abstract shapes, one jagged and angular and the other rounded and smooth. The participants were then asked to associate each shape with the non-sense words "Kiki" and "Bouba." Surprisingly, the results consistently demonstrated a strong correlation, with the majority associating the jagged shape with "Kiki" and the rounded shape with "Bouba." This effect transcended linguistic and cultural boundaries, suggesting a fundamental, innate connection between the visual and auditory senses.

Blue and Green Kiki & Bouba Womens Abstract Earrings

Blue & Green "Kiki & Bouba" Polymer Clay Kitsch Womens Adult Earrings.

The Kiki/Bouba effect provides valuable insights into the synesthetic nature of human perception, wherein the brain naturally forms associations between seemingly unrelated sensory experiences. The experiment implies that certain perceptual qualities, such as sharpness and roundness, evoke specific auditory qualities in a remarkably consistent manner across individuals.

Further research on the Kiki/Bouba effect delves into the neurological underpinnings of this phenomenon. Neuroimaging studies have identified brain regions, particularly in the angular gyrus, that play a crucial role in processing these cross-modal associations. The findings suggest that the brain automatically integrates information from different sensory modalities to create a cohesive perceptual experience.

Moreover, the Kiki/Bouba effect is not limited to abstract shapes and non-sense words; it extends to real-world objects and language. Studies have demonstrated that people tend to associate certain sounds with specific shapes of objects. For example, the spiky or jagged appearance of a cactus might be more likely to be associated with the sound "Kiki," while a smooth, rounded stone might evoke the sound "Bouba."


The implications of the Kiki/Bouba effect reach beyond the realms of psychology and perceptual studies. Marketers, designers, and even artists can leverage this phenomenon to enhance communication and create more impactful visual and auditory experiences. Understanding the inherent associations between shapes and sounds can inform the design of logos, product packaging, and even the creation of brand names, ensuring that the sensory elements align with the intended message or perception.

The Kiki/Bouba effect stands as a captivating testament to the interconnectedness of our sensory experiences. The consistent cross-modal associations between visual shapes and sounds underscore the universal nature of certain perceptual tendencies in human cognition.

As a maker I found the science behind this concept fascinating and was very interested in how this related to my making practices and considerations. For instance when choosing which colours to make it is always fun to debate which colour is more of a 'kiki' and which is more of a 'bouba. I often ask others their opinion and always find it interesting to see where opinions meet and where they diverge. As one of our most popular designs, I have sent Kiki & Bouba jewellery all around the world including to many linguistics students and even a linguistics professor or two! However, what I love most is that it is such a versatile style, whether or not the science behind it interests you, it will always be a vibrant, abstract design to add a little creativity to your day!

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