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Gestalt Theory

Gestalt Theory

Description:

In this lesson you will learn to define and recognize the use of gestalt theory, a sensory theory of communications.

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Tutorial

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Hi everyone. My name is Mario. I'd like to welcome you to today's lesson on the gestalt theory. I'm going to talk about what that is, why it's important, and cover a bit of the gestalt laws. As always, if I'm going too fast, feel free to stop, fast forward, and rewind as you see fit. When you're ready to go, let's get started.

Let's introduce the gestalt theory. The gestalt theory is another theory that crosses over many disciplines. Most important to us, of course, the visual design and communication. An important figure of this theory was Max Wertheimer, a Czech psychologist and one of the founders of the gestalt psychology. The gestalt theory had a set of gestalt principles that were first proposed by German psychologists based on the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I know by this point you're probably thinking, oh man, another lesson on theories. But the gestalt theory is great to know because it directly applies to visual communications dealing with the organization and perception of elements in groups. And it greatly, greatly impacts how a viewer perceives a design.

Let's talk about these gestalt principles, starting with the law of proximity. The law of proximity states that elements that are close to one another appear to form groups even if they have different characteristics. In this example, a lot of these elements, even though of varying shape and color, appear to form groups because they are in close proximity to each other.

Then we have the law of similarity, which states that elements that share characteristics tend to be perceived as a group. So rather than their proximity, it's about similar characteristics. In this example, everything is closer and tighter, but you're still able to separate them into groups because of similar characteristics. Colors are closely related or similar in size and shape as well.

Next, we have the law of closure that states that elements tend to be perceived as a completed whole if they are aligned, even if some information is missing. So if we look at this example, we have elements that are nicely aligned and stacked. And if we took that same example in the design and removed some of the structure in the piece, you're still able to perceive the shapes as a whole even though there's a lot of visual information missing. And that's because, again, the elements in the piece are in alignment.

Moving on, we have the law of continuity, which states that the eye will naturally follow this path. It's pretty easy to understand, I think. Your eye is going to follow the smoothest and most logical path. In this example, similar elements are grouped together, and they're arranged in a certain way that creates a steady flow of direction.

Again, your eye is going to follow the line that's been created. Here it kind of looks like these blocks were nicely stacked at some point and then collapsed, so your eye draws those conclusions and follows the corresponding line. If you had everything spread out with no real path for the eye to follow, then again, your eye will naturally attempt to follow the smoothest path available. And in this case, at least for my eye, the blocks are creating this circular motion, so that's where my eyes tend to travel.

The last law for this lesson is the law of common fate. This one sounds pretty important. This law states that the elements that move in the same direction will tend to be perceived as a group. In this example, you'll notice all the objects moving in the same direction are visually grouped. Your eye notices direction and will group elements accordingly. If you shift elements around, however, once again, you'll notice that even if the elements in a design are not the same shape or color, that your will group them accordingly if they are moving together in the same direction. So the squares would be considered in one group here in one sided page, or the circles and triangles would be considered another part of the group in the top right corner there.

Well, everyone, that concludes today's lesson. We'll end with our key terms for today, which were gestalt principles, Max Wertheimer, law of proximity, law of similarity, law of closure, law of continuity, and law of common fate.

I hope you've enjoyed today's lesson. My name is Mario. I will see you next lesson.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Law of Common Fate

    Elements that move in the same direction will tend to be perceived as a group.

  • Law of Continuity

    The eye will naturally follow the smoothest path.

  • Law of Closure

    Elements tend to be perceived as a complete whole if they are aligned, even if some information is missing.

  • Law of Similarity

    Elements that share characteristics tend to be perceived as a group.

  • Law of Proximity

    Elements that are close to one another appear to form groups, even if they have different characteristics.

  • Max Wertheimer

    Czech psychologist and one of the founders of Gestalt psychology.

  • Gestalt Principles

    First proposed by German psychologists, based on the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.