Gestalt Principles

What are the Gestalt principles?

Gestalt is the German word for shape or form. It has also become a school of thought as well as a set of widely accepted design principles.

Key ideas behind the Gestalt Theory

The Gestalt Principles are based on the concept that the human eye perceives the whole shape of something differently than each part of the shape. Our brains will ignore or fill in certain information to organize information based on patterns or similarities. Essentially, the Gestalt Principles explain how our brains make sense of design.

We all subconsciously make sense of design every day. We see animals in the clouds, letters in the sidewalk cracks, etc. If we all do this naturally, imagine how our brains work when we are intentionally assessing design!

Understanding how our brains process design is key to the creation of aesthetically appealing, easy to understand graphic designs, paintings, sculptures, etc. When creating artistic visuals of any kind, it’s good practice to run through a mental checklist of the Gestalt Principles to try to anticipate how a viewer may perceive the design.

Let’s look at the six Gestalt Principles and examples of each.

What are the Gestalt Principles?
Principle 1: Similarity

Our eyes group together elements of a similar size, shape, or colour.

Principle 2: Continuation

Our eyes prefer to see and follow a continuous path of design elements rather than seeing individual shapes.

Principle 3: Closure

Our eyes prefer to see complete shapes rather than individuals. We fill in missing information to create one cohesive shape.

Principle 4: Proximity

Our eyes create one larger shape out of a group of smaller shapes when they are in close proximity.

Principle 5: Figure/ground

Our eyes distinguish between shapes in the foreground and background.

Principle 6: Symmetry

Our eyes work to create order and balanced design from ambiguous shapes.

When applied strategically, Gestalt Principles are simple design strategies that, can enhance the design and make it easier for viewers to process.

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