Gestalt theory: a few more principles generated from it

Continuing the previous post, “Simplicity, Symmetry and More: Gestalt Theory And The Design Principles It Gave Birth To” show here over six principles that were based on Gestalt theory.

05. Common Fate

When visual elements move together in the same direction, we see them as part of a single group. Our eye is drawn towards figures that are moving together, and this principle is particularly important for 2D and 3D animations.

In the image below, because each of the individual birds are travelling in unity in the same direction our mind perceives them as forming part of a single group, carrying away a captured fish.

Gestalt | Common Fate

In this poster for Street Scene, an American opera by Kurt Weill, the grey letters are perceived as part of the same content block (title) because they are not only similar (Similarity principle in the preview post), or tightly kerned (Proximity), but also apparently moving in the same direction.

Gestalt | Common Fate

06. Symmetry

Symmetrical elements are perceived as part of the same group. Have you ever looked at figures that look like mirror reflections of each other? This relationship helps us perceive these elements as a single figure.

In this poster for the Bike Expo in New York, the design concept aimed for a unified circle as the main focal point. To create the circle, the designer portrayed one half as a bike wheel and one half as a manhole cover. While different in texture and color, the fact that they resembled a symmetrical figure unified them in the eyes of this poster’s audience.

Gestalt | Simmetry


Elements with the same or very similar slopes are associated as a single group. When designing, we often change the inclination of our texts to match surrounding arrows or curves because it makes the entire figure look more visually compact. In this poster created to advertise the font Futura, different text areas are grouped using the principle of parallelism.

Gestalt | Simmetry

07. Continuity

Elements are visually associated if they are aligned with each other. Lines are perceived as a single figure insofar as they’re continuous. The smoother their segments are, the more we see them as a unified shape.

This Christmas card by Publicis Singapore portrays how the principle of continuity can help us create shapes. The sharpened pencil’s thin green line helps guide the eye from the top of the composition to the bottom, creating a christmas tree shape in a very unexpected way.

Gestalt | Continuity

08. Closure

We perceive elements as belonging to the same group if they are part of a closed figure. A great opportunity to explore the closure principle is logo design. Fedex’s logo “hides” a right arrow that not many have been able to spot throughout the years. By creating that negative space between the E and the X, and adding the illusion of closure by kerning the two letters very tightly, the arrow becomes visually apparent:

Gestalt | Closure

09. Common Region

When we find several elements that are part of a single region, we associate them as a single group. Consider a design for a badge where there is a combination of text, objects and a banner. All three of those elements are perceived as belonging to the unified badge.

In this poster for Pixar’s Inside Out, artists Stacey Aoyama and Eric Tan use the common region principle to unify the movie’s characters inside a single human silhouette. As we visualize them inside the same region, we perceive them as coexisting within that space. If you’ve watched the movie, you know that this is largely its goal: to show that positive and negative emotions coexist in our minds to shape our behavior.

Gestalt | Common Region

10. Element Connectedness

We perceive elements as being united if they are connected by other elements. An easy way to think about this principle in action is an infographic or flowchart where arrows help connect one figure (or text block) to the next.

In these pieces by Jonathan Calugi for Harvard Magazine, the objects are unified by a line that runs through the entire composition — bringing unity and a sense of visual cohesion despite the amount of activity.

Gestalt | Element Connectedness

Try Gestalt Principles in Your Next Project!

Ready to bring strong psychology principles to your design work? Next time you are creating a composition, think about how proximity, simplicity, similarity and other principles outlined above impact your audience. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

By Laura Busche
Source: Canvas Design School