Gestalt Principles


Would you believe that we were ‘programmed’ from way back to predictably respond to what we perceive? That’s certainly food for thought because these reactions are related to our basic survival needs. Indeed, one of the most useful explanations for how we perceive things is based in psychological theory called Gestalt, the German word for shape.

Gestalt is a German term describing a design’s wholeness. When we look at a design and say, “This design works!” what we are describing is the overall Gestalt quality. How this is so is defined by this Gestalt term: A design’s unity is more than the simple addition of its parts. Very simply it means that each part of a design is affected by what surrounds it, and that we can affect the cumulative perception by manipulating the interaction of the individual parts.

So Gestalt , or cumulative vision helps us understand the message revealed in a group of images and words in a design.

The Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus e-learning site explains the Gestalt theory rather well, I thought. The interactive demos and reference links are visually helpful too. Interestingly Pragnantz and Isomorphic Correspondence are included (Sounds frightening, but these are easily understood).

Here’s the link:

Gestalt principles

Andy Rutledge also does a good job explaining the various Gestalt principles, check them out:

Gestalt Principles of Perception – 1: Figure Ground Relationship

Gestalt Principles – 2: Similarity

Gestalt Principles of Perception – 3: Proximity, Uniform Connectness, Continuation

Gestalt Principles of Perception – 4: Common Fate

Gestalt Principles of Perception – 5: Closure


About ranman

Design educator with a Masters of Design degree. 32 years of design experience. View all posts by ranman

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