Whether you’re a designer, photographer, artist, or a professional tasked with making a power-point, Gestalt principles can help you make things that are easier for your viewer to understand. For those of you who are not already familiar with Gestalt principles, I’m providing this short primer to answer the following questions for you:
- What is Gestalt theory?
- Where can I learn more?
What is Gestalt theory?
Originating in Germany in the 1920’s, Gestalt is a philosophy of the mind focused on the way our individual senses combine to create the perception of an “organized whole” reality, or “Gestalt.” If that sounds like more than you’re willing to dive into right now, don’t worry. The philosophical and physiological underpinnings of Gestalt are dated and being steadily supplanted by neuroscience, but the principles themselves are intuitive, and practical when applied to visual communication.
Simply put, there is a consistent way that human beings perceive the world, especially visual stimuli. Gestalt helps us easily understand those consistencies and employ them in our visual communications.
Where can I learn more?
The image above is a popular representation of a few of the Gestalt principles. You can probably begin to understand them just by looking at it. For instance: Similarity – When objects look similar to one another they are perceived as being related. See, I told you Gestalt is intuitive! Below are a couple of resources for exploring this topic further:
Finally, if you’re looking to apply Gestalt principles to the world of web and interface design, I learned a lot from this series of posts by Michael Dain, who teaches in the M.S. of Information Design and Strategy program at Northwestern University.
- Gestalt Theory for Interface Designers 1 – Figure/Ground
- Gestalt Theory for Interface Designers 2 – Proximity
- Gestalt Theory for Interface Designers 3 – Similarity
I hope this brief primer has been helpful and encouraged you to learn more about Gestalt principles. Thanks for visiting!
Matt Grossman is an experienced professional multi-media creator and graduate student of Information Design and Strategy at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies pursuing a specialization in Content Strategy.