Get grounded in Gestalt Theory

Whether or not we are considered artistic, we all have incredible visual acuity. Understanding Gestalt phenomena gives insight into the themes of how we perceive our world, and introducing these principles to your clients can help them better understand your designs and give you more coherent feedback. When we evaluate the understanding and effectiveness of an interface, for example, these principles give a solid foundation to critique, build understanding and make it better.


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Previously I wrote in depth about the Gestalt principles figure/ground, proximity and similarity. Understanding gestalt gives insight into the themes of how we perceive our world.  Today I’ll conclude with two final concepts: closure  and common fate. Closure indicates that if elemFed_Ex_Logoents hint at a shape rather than actually describe the shape, it is still perceptible. Logo designs often leverage this phenomena, one of the more famous being the Fed Ex logo and the ‘hidden’ arrow created by the Ex letters.

Common fate is especially applicable to interaction design. Before mobile, there was debate about how designs dealt with space not visible that you have to scroll to reveal, or content “below the fold.” Many still feel as though scrolling is evil. It took the mobile revolution to show that what you need to do to make a good design is to show a ‘peek’ of content and then continue it indefinitely as the user scrolls. Scrolling to reveal more is far preferable to navigating or clicking. This technique – now demonstrated as highly successful Pinterest directly uses the common fate theory. In this page design we perceive that the things above are cut off and continue below, because we see elements cut off by the page.



I hope these principles help you with your exploration of interactive design. I look forward to any comments you may have. Get all the details by reading these posts.


Figure / Ground