Gestalt theory for designers

Research in the psychology of visual perception in Germany in the 1920s showed that people tend to organise visual material into a unified whole in order to make better sense of it. Often referred to as the “Gestalt” theory, it illustrates a number of principles including: closure, similarity, proximity, symmetry, continuity and common fate.

(The word “Gestalt” means “unified whole” in German and is frequently written with the capital “G” because that is the practice in the German language. It’s pronounced “Gheshtalt”.)

We see a circle here even though there are really only four unrelated forms.

We group the similarly coloured circles together and perceive them as independent rectangles and squares within the main design.

We see two groups of circles here rather than 24 individual circles.

Even though these symmetrical shapes are not touching we assume they are part of a single whole.

Even though the dots are not touching we read this sequence as a line and follow its direction.

common fate
We will group these rectangles in two depending on the direction they are facing.

Illustrations and essay by Louisa Bufardeci.

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