Gestalt – how visuals are perceived and why graphic design works

Gestalt: a set of theories that explain how visuals are perceived as a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts. The human brain and vision work in tandem to interpret the world as it is but these theories explain why design elements work in the manner in which they do.

Similarity

We view things that are similar to each other as related. In this example, the four separate circles appear as one group, and the twelve outer squares appear as another group.

Pragnanz

We view things as simply as possible. In this example, we perceive two “X” shapes, instead of something more intricate.

Proximity

We view things that are near each other as groups. In this example, we see two groups of circles, not just six separate circles.

Continuation

We view things as describing paths, even if interrupted. In this example, we see a circle, even though it’s interrupted by other lines.

Closure

We view things as wholes, even if incomplete. In this example, a star is evident in the negative space, even though the entire contour isn’t rendered. Also, we perceive the star, and not just five separate shapes.

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