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Gestalt Theory & Design

R Proffitt
by Richard Proffitt
iopan design

Gestalt dates to the 1890s and has been associated with great names in philosophy and psychology over the years. Gestalt was first introduced by Christian von Ehrenfels and has roots in theories by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant, and Ernst Mach. The theory goes that when you look at something the mind organizes all of the visual information available into a single whole in an effort to provide meaning to elements in a sea of chaos. The gestalt effect is a ability of the brain to generate whole forms from groupings of lines, shapes, curves and points.

Gestalt works because the mind seeks to organize visual information. When visual components are linked by shape, color, size, scale or proximity, they are often collected and interpreted as a single object.

Gestalt Theory Laws

We can see a host of examples of these principles around us. In addition, they are fully applicable to our daily life.

  1. Law of Prägnanz
  2. Figure-ground law
  3. Law of proximity
  4. Law of similarity
  5. Common Fate law
  6. Law of Closure
  7. Law of Good Continuity
Examples of gestalt principals
Gestalt Principals

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The term Gestalt means unified whole, and points to the underlying conceptual structure of this framework. Gestalt works because the mind seeks to organize visual information. A composition created using Gestalt principles predetermines how each of the elements within it interacts with the others spatially.

“Graphic Design and Print Production Fundamentals”

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Example of optical illusion
1. Law of Prägnanz
A sillouette shape is broken down into three component shapes: a rectangle, a triangle and a circle.

People will perceive and interpret ambiguous or complex images as the simplest form(s) possible.

2. Figure-ground law
Two figure-ground optical illusions

Figure-ground organisation is known as identifying a figure from the background. For example, you see words on a printed paper as the "figure" and the white sheet as the "background". In the familiar optical illusion of the two face profiles and the goblet, Whereby one can become at once aware of the two figures in the image and suddenly then the goblet becomes the "figure" and the faces the "background". This is a perfect example of how figure and ground can become interchangable.

3. Law of proximity
Two figure-ground optical illusions

The Law of Proximity states that objects that are near or 'proximate' to each other tend to be grouped together.

4. Law of similarity
Two figure-ground optical illusions

A Gestalt principle of organization holding that (other things being equal) parts of a stimulus field that are similar to each other tend to be perceived as belonging together as a unit.

5. Common Fate law
Two figure-ground optical illusions

The Gestalt law of common fate states that humans perceive visual elements that move in the same speed and/or direction as parts of a single stimulus. A common example of this is a flock of birds.

6. Law of Closure
Two figure-ground optical illusions

Gestalt psychologists believe that the brain tends to perceive forms and figures in their complete appearance despite the absence of one or more of their parts, either hidden or totally absent. This refers to the law of closure.

7. Law of Good Continuity
Two figure-ground optical illusions

The principle of good continuity holds that humans tend to perceive each of two or more objects as different, singular, and uninterrupted object even when they intersect. ❧

 


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