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Want your design work to be both aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand? Read on to discover how the Gestalt principles of design can enhance your creations and, if you’re new to the game, how to get into design as a career.
A group of theories around visual perception, known as the Gestalt principles of design or Gestalt theory, were developed in the 1920s by a group of psychologists in Germany. Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka were trying to comprehend how people generally arrive at meaningful perceptions, while being surrounded by chaos.
When people view a group of objects, their tendency is to see the group before the separate, individual aspects. Gestalt principles of design respond to this tendency.
The principles form a solid base for all design work, both in print and online. Designers who integrate these considerations are more likely to create work that is both easy to understand and visually attractive. This is important to ensure those who engage with your designs are able to do so without confusion – which is vital when it comes to navigating interfaces of websites and apps.
Incorporating Gestalt principles into your design work will support the outcome to be more complete. These principles are sometimes referred to as ‘laws’ – here we use the two terms interchangeably.
Also referred to as the principle of grouping, proximity uses the placement of elements within a design to depict a group. If elements are closely grouped to each other there is a higher chance they will be seen as a single group or cluster. This will be increased if each of the elements are similar to each other.
Closure or reification is when a design encourages the viewer to recognise closed shapes. The design elements or objects may not be complete so the outline or overall design isn’t connected. Despite not all of the information being included, a viewer is still able to ‘join the dots’ and understand what the image is.
This approach is commonly used with stencil style design and in logos.
If there are a number of elements within a design that look similar to each other, a viewer will likely draw the conclusion that all of these elements or objects combined are part of an overall pattern.
Similarities between elements could be based on texture, colour, shape or size and the more traits each have in common, the more the feeling of connection and coherence is experienced.
This principle focuses on the viewer’s tendency to see separation between design elements in the foreground, also known as figure, and background, also known as ground, of an overall piece.
If something isn’t ‘figure’ then it is seen as ‘ground’ and can be used to create different visual effects.
When a design attracts the viewer’s eye along a specific path, which encourages an ongoing flow and not separate lines, this is referred to as continuity.
This technique can draw attention to specific objects or elements within a piece. There can be multiple elements that are connected via a line and the order of how we see them is encouraged by the shape and direction of the path.
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