Have you ever visited a website online, and instantly, your eyes were drawn to a particular image or video on the site that hooked your attention?
What about reading this blog post now? Did you scan the title of the post, then immediately jump to the second or third heading and scan the body of each section for a moment before deciding to read at the beginning?
You may not be aware of it upfront, but certain design elements and their layout systematically engage with your mind in a way that's aesthetically pleasing to it. In the same way that a beautiful photo tugs at your heartstrings or a certain room in your home makes you feel warm and cozy, Gestalt Principles play an important role in the theory of design, and these factors are much easier to understand than you think.
Whenever you perceive an object, your mind combines similar elements and patterns to simplify that object into something you can easily understand.
For instance, the mind has the ability to find "order within disorder," so basically, Gestalt Principles refer to a set form of practices that the mind uses to comprehend individual elements and relate them to their whole structure. Once again, designers who craft websites serve as a good example of those who put this theory into practice because they follow an intricate system that leverages each aspect of Gestalt theory design to their advantage.
Below are the five Gestalt Principles that make up the overall theory of design—each of these elements are concepts that you interact with on a daily basis as a consumer.
The law of proximity within Gestalt theory design means that simple elements are arranged together to create something more complex.
This is why you often see restaurant menu items within their own brackets or groupings because the individual items belong to an overall set category, like breakfast, lunch, or dinner. On the other hand, if certain items weren't within proximity of each other and everything was laid out in one big list, you might have a hard time understanding what your choices are or what you should even order!
Along with proximity in Gestalt Principles, similarity means that the human mind likes to establish connections between "similar" design elements within the whole.
So, if the layout of a retail store uses blue-colored banners to advertise a big discount on clothing, it might be a good idea to place blue clothing articles (denim, dress shirts, socks) under that banner to leverage the laws of proximity and similarity to their advantage. The same concept applies to the use of similar shapes and sizes amongst objects.
The whole purpose of effective design elements is to lead customers to the desired action, and continuity in Gestalt theory design represents maintaining a continuous path for others to follow.
Humans respond to visual elements that create a flow, whether it be a straight line or a winding maze. The idea of continuity speaks to the fact that visual elements that have a strong connection to each other perform much better than objects that are separated or stand on their own.
For instance, with interior design, having bookshelves or furniture set up in a way that creates a pathway for guests to walk down creates a much stronger connection to the space as a whole. Whereas an open room with furniture or plants placed haphazardly may confuse a guest as to how to navigate the space.
The idea of closure within Gestalt Principles also relates to continuity by way of having visual elements that are entirely complete.
For example, humans prefer to see shapes and designs that are whole. If you make a design choice that leaves out vital lines or curves that would provide "closure" for a shape or element, the customer may feel confused or dissatisfied by the design, and therefore, be unhappy with the brand.
Lastly, connectedness speaks to the most important Gestalt Principle to consider—the concept of designing something complete and well-balanced.
A design that meets both these standards must work together in unison on each front. You can't have a complete design that favors a single color more than others because the balance of the color palette will be thrown off. At the same time, you can't have a well-balanced design that's aesthetically pleasing when all the shapes of the design aren't finished.
Remember, Gestalt theory design is meant to help the viewer perceive an overall picture that they can easily understand. That said, if symmetry and order cannot be achieved in the overall connectedness of a design, the audience will be left confused about whatever they're looking at or trying to take in.
Now that you have a better understanding of what Gestalt theory design means, you can start using these principles in your own designs projects.
As you create your own websites or structure your online store or social media channels, think about the five Gestalt principles and how you can incorporate each one. At the end of the day, opting for a design element that's more simple and balanced may be easy to achieve. Still, as you get better at cultivating a holistic experience with your resources, you'll learn just how much you can influence customers and prompt them to take action.