A Quick Glance at Gestalt, Once Again

March 20, 2010

Though I have already touched upon Gestalt design concepts earlier in this quarter, I would like to go back for a moment and look at it in a bit more detail by itself now.  Gestalt is probably one of the more important design principles with which any designer worth his salt should be familiar.

As a dictionary definition, it is “a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts,” (Merriam-Webster).  Yet this is not the only way of looking at Gestalt – there is also a branch of psychology that looks at Gestalt to understand how we see and interpret things.  Max Wertheimer, a noted Gestalt theorist, had this to say:  “‘There are wholes, the behaviour of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes'” (psychology.about.com).  Additionally, “it is the total concept of the item being created – rather than just thinking of the separate pieces that make up the item” (creativeglossary.com).

To be more concise, Gestalt is the idea that the sum of an object’s parts is greater than the whole.  The word itself is a German word literally meaning “shape” or “form.”   The major principles upon which Gestalt is based, that apply both to the design and to the psychological definitions, are Proximity, Similarity, Continuation, Closure, and Figure and Ground.  As one can imagine, Gestalt principles have a huge impact on how we see images, how we perceive images psychologically, and, in the case of applied design, how we decide what to buy.

Here is my example of an image demonstrating some Gestalt design principles:

20 Extra Points of Gestalt Goodness - Mmmmmmm

This demonstrates both Closure, since our minds can complete the letters despite the interruptions, and Proximity, since we still can read the whole word as a whole.






One Response to “A Quick Glance at Gestalt, Once Again”

  1. antiphonsgarden said

    Not to forget the wholes of consciousness of the perceiver impacting the perceived.

    It is neurologically interesting to observe that humans make sense a “greater sense” out of partial elements of the whole.Pattern recognition.

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