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Significance of Gestalt Principles in Design

The human mind is like a maze where everything is connected to everything else. We often try to give deep meanings to frivolous patterns and many times ignore the more important ones. There are some things that each one of us have done at some time in our lives, like finding shapes in clouds, in cracks on the walls, or even the leaves. This is basic human instinct to strive to complete a whole, to find the missing link in the puzzle nature has given us. We are always trying to connect the dots.

These random and candid observations have led to some of the most robust principles of design called the Gestalt Principles. They are based on the power of perception of the human mind and refer to the preliminary appeal that is created when a human eye sees a design. Psychology has a prominent role in visual perception.

Gestalt Principles: The Psychological Angle to Design

Every time your eye meets a design, it triggers certain associations and emotions. These emotions form your experience. Good designers can work on the psychological element of humans and produce pieces that give way to orderly, regular and recognizable experiences. Any design that can give more meaning to the chaotic world will be successful.

Hence, exploring the psychological aspect of design helps to determine the most effective design elements in a situation, allows the designers to focus on the certain points that lead to behavioral change. The best designs are said not only to address the main problem of the customers but also are high on appeal.

It is thus safe to conclude here that psychology and design are intricately related and exert a great influence on one another. Gestalt principles help us to identify these linkages. Let us see how.

Gestalt Principles: Background

"The whole is other than the sum of the parts."-Kurt Koffka

The quote is one of the most appropriate descriptions of Gestalt.

Gestalt is a German word, that stands for grouping. It denotes a unified whole and represents the work done by the German psychologists in 20th century Kurt Koffka, Max Wertheimer, and Wolfgang Kohler.

The principles base themselves on the pretext that when people see designs or any object, they tend to see it as a unified whole than in parts. Designs based on the gestalt principles are much more coherent and complete. They are better able to connect with customers. It was by the Rudolf Arnheim's book "Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye", that these principles came to prominence.

Let us look at the Gestalt Principles in detail.

Gestalt Principles in Design

All the principles under Gestalt seek to represent how people see various visual elements under certain outside conditions. The message that your design gives to the audience will depend on various key elements that are covered by these principles.


A basic yet highly effective principle. It states that when objects that are very different from one another, appear similar, they are often perceived as one whole group and not as a single entity. Designers make use of this principle for creating different illustrations, or images from a group of different elements. The similarity can be seen in terms of shape, color, patterns, size, texture, etc. The level of similarity determines the level of coherence.


We often tend to see the closely placed objects as part of a group. They are not perceived as individual elements. So, how does that get placed in a designer's workbook? When the designers can put the objects together, alongside the organization of content and white space, the impact on the whole user experience is enhanced. The proximity rule is applied to enhance the readability and scanning of different layouts.


A wonderful principle that states that when objects are symmetrically placed to each other, they are perceived as a whole than discrete elements. This imparts more order to the design as symmetry has always enjoyed great eminence in design. When objects are placed in harmony with other aspects, they not only add to the visual appeal but smart designs can direct the viewer to the main point at hand. However, there is another aspect especially when it comes to design. Symmetry does lead to uniformity but can we simply rule out the fact that it can also introduce dullness. Designers can deal with this by working around it, but a clever introduction of asymmetry alongside the symmetrical designs. Such abruptness often acts as potent bait for attracting the attention of the viewer in a space where everything is time-compressed.


This is one of the most commonly used Gestalt principles. It often shows the direction and movement of the design. Continuation principle refers to the fact any element that belongs to the soft curve or continuity will make a great impression of being linked to each other than in the elements that appear as harsh lines. In cases of design, the human mind also offers a path of least resistance. Hence, this increased smoothness in the design elements helps them to be seen as a unified whole and gives a smooth view of the web-page. Hence, it is best suitable for giving grouped information and any kind of discontinuity will thus signal the section end.

Common Fate

This again finds great use in design. All the elements that point towards one direction or are headed towards one direction, are often considered as related to one another. Designers often use this to principle to show connected information pieces and also the addition of certain disruptions for raising a particular point.

Gestalt principles seek to address the primary aspects of design to enhance its visual attraction. Your designs should be able to strike a perfect balance between usability and visual appeal. Content is just another element of design, and not the design itself. Designs have to be whole and sufficient to appeal to the human mind. The message has to be clear. This is only possible if you can explore the basic triggers of the human mind. Gestalt principles equip you with the right cues to develop your designs and make them truly revolutionary.

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