What is Gestalt?

Gestalt is german and simply means pattern, figure, form or structure that is unified. Gestalt psychology is a movement the took place in Berlin in the 1920’s.

The idea of gestalt is, it makes sense and decodes what we see visually and makes us understand what is in front of use, now this may be a case of looking at the whole image or picture instead just looking at individual sections.

To help you understand how gestalt works, think of a human face. Faces are created with essential parts eyes, nose, mouth and ears etc. now it is very uncommon that 2 faces will match identical. however our eyes see these parts  as a hole and our mind instantly recognises the way the facial features are placed and decodes and tells use who that is, or if we don’t recognise them. This is very similar to how gestalt works we see the features of an image we look for simplicity and try and visualise a pattern or a form created using multiple items.

  • Gestalt – it’s not about meaning it’s about how we perceive the world around us.
  • Emerge – The whole is identified before the parts.
  • Reification – our mind fills in the gaps.
  • Multi stability – The mind seeks to avoid uncertainty.
  • Invariance – we’re  good at recognising similarities and differences.

Laws of Gestalt.

  1. figure and ground – The mind often perceives the smallest object in the composition to be the figure, and the larger item to be the ground.
  2. Law of Simplicity – The mind often perceives it in the simplest form. when you compile a group of circles in a particular way you can view it as a hole and make it visually spell out a word. or in another case using typography and shape to create an image. (type and image).
  3. Law of closure – is often used in logo design to use the elements of the design to create an illusion or create a relevant shape or meaning that is connected with the main logo design. for example the the formula 1 logo has been made up with the letter F and motion triangles and in between the the negative space creates a 1.
  4. Law of Proximity – Is by using multiple elements to create a visual that when you look at the whole image it helps the viewer perceive the image you are trying to communicate. This can be very effective with use of shapes to create typography. 
  5. Law of Similarity – We perceive elements as belonging to the same group if they look like each other. The principle of similarity can be triggered using color, size, orientation, texture and even fonts
  6. Law of Parallelism – Elements with the same or very similar slopes are associated as a single group. When designing, we often change the inclination of our texts to match surrounding arrows or curves because it makes the entire figure look more visually compact. In this poster created to advertise the font Futura, different text areas are grouped using the principle of parallelism.
  7. Law of Continuation – Elements are visually associated if they are aligned with each other. Lines are perceived as a single figure insofar as they’re continuous. The smoother their segments are, the more we see them as a unified shape.
  8. Law of Common Fate – When we see a flock of birds that are traveling in the same direction, we don’t necessarily see and individual bird we see them as a whole and our mind creates the visual shape.

How to apply this to design?

  • Focal Point


In this example using the circle as the main bulk, by inserting a different shape (square) that is used to become the main focal point which your mind directly focuses on.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 14.40.10


  • Past experience


Links to interesting site that shows the meaning of gestalt in a much deeper understanding way

Simplicity, Symmetry and More: Gestalt Theory And The Design Principles It Gave Birth To



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