The Fundamentals of Design: Gestalt

3 May
2010

Gestalt is a general description for the concepts that make unity and variety possible in design. It is a German word that roughly translates as “whole” or “form.” Gestalt theory is involved with visual perception and the psychology of art among other things. It is concerned with the relationship between the parts and the whole of a composition.

The objective of studying gestalt is having the designer be in control of what the viewers see when they look at a composition.  The trick is to strike a balance between unity and variety. Too much unity and the design can look boring and repetitive; too much variety and it can look chaotic and disconnected. Understanding gestalt concepts can help a designer control this.

There are 5 main principles of Gestalt: Closure, Continuance, Similarity, Proximity and Alignment.

Closure: Take a face for example.  It is a combination of shapes; eyes, nose, ears, mouth. One may recognize a face even if it is partially hidden because your brain ‘closes the image’ and supplies the parts that are missing.

Here are examples of gestalt design…


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