Gestalt Theory in Design
Have you ever noticed how a series of flashing lights or neon signs often appear to be moving? Well according to Gestalt Theory we see this kind of movement because our brains are filling in the gaps of information in our perception.
Gestalt Theory in Design
Gestalt Psychology was developed by a group of German Psychologists in the 1920s to understand and describe how we perceive and process visual information.
The word Gestalt comes from German and translates to English as “whole” or “form”. If you ever heard the saying that something was “greater than the sum of its parts”, this is where it came from. Except that Gestalt Theory says that object we view are equal to the sum of its parts. This means that while each individual part has its own meaning, our minds focus on the whole to derive meaning and understanding.
So when we look at something (anything) that is made up of many complicated parts, our brains automatically try to simply it into something we can easily identify and understand. As a result we see whole objects instead of the individual parts.
And how do we see the whole from sum of all parts? By ways of grouping. According to Gestalt principles, a few laws govern the way we visually group things:
Know how to balance simple shapes with visual stimulation. Help the viewer maintain their focus by only showing them what is needed. Using simple shapes reduces the “noise” created by extra visual information.
People can immediately identify what part of an image is the figure, and which is the ground. Use this principle to draw attention to the most important visual information.
Area- A person’s mind sees the smallest element as the figure and the larges as the ground or background.
Convexity- Elements with outward curves are seen to be part of the figure instead of the ground.
Elements that are close to each other are seen as being part of the same group. Use kerning to make text easier to read, and quicker to identify on page.
Elements that look alike are perceived to be part of the same group. Create relationships between your elements using color, size, shape, texture, and orientation.
Objects that are seen to be moving in the same direction are often seen as a group. The eye is naturally drawn to these elements. The illusion of motion creates a sense of urgency and action.
Our minds want closure. A shape only needs to be implied by its surroundings for our minds to fill in the missing information. Many logos use this principle to add in “hidden shapes” which add meaning to the logo. Famously Fedex and Toblerone do this with their logos.
Elements in one region of a design are seen as a group. In badge and logo design we can use this to tie together pieces of text and images. So despite being visually different we can use the regionally placement of the images to create grouping.
Knowing Gestalt Theory
Gestalt Theory is essential for graphic design and UI building. It explains how we perceive objects and how we interpret what we see.
Designing requires creativity and a lot of know-how in making people experience the message you want to convey through your creation. Arming yourself with the principles of Gestalt will help you come up with designs that people can easily relate to.”