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Gestalt Principles of Design: Applying Theory to Web Design

The 7 Gestalt principles help guide designers when creating visuals. Learn more about the Gestalt theory and how to use them to enhance visual experiences.

Designers study rules, principles, and theories when they're learning how to design flyers, websites, and other materials. One such theory designers learn is Gestalt theory, also known as the Gestalt principles of perception and design. This theory discusses how people see patterns and different aspects of the world, including branding elements like logos and websites.

The Gestalt principles were formed in the 1920s by psychologists about how people view their surroundings. Ultimately, it studies how the human brain reads and interprets visuals. For example, you can use different shapes to create a visual because your brain fills in the blanks automatically.

Of course, this psychological theory can also help designers create branding visuals by understanding how the human brain recognizes patterns. Using Gestalt principles, designers can enhance the design of anything they create. Designers understand that psychology can impact design. For example, color theory is another popular course that discusses how color can affect emotions. Therefore, designers use different psychological theories to understand how to improve their designs and create something unique. Everything from the best blog design to logo design can benefit from learning about the Gestalt principles of perception.

What are the Gestalt principles?

Understanding Gestalt principles of design can help you find the most effective images and design elements that enhance someone's visual experience with them. You can use these principles to enhance digital marketing design, email design, and even create the best website footers to improve customers' feelings about your business and ultimately build a strong digital brand. But, of course, to use the Gestalt principles, you must first know what they are.

Similarity

The law of similarity groups similar visual elements that share the same characteristics. Similarity groupings come in many forms. For example, visual elements can be grouped by shape, size, color, and even purpose. For example, on a landing page, a call-to-action (CTA) is typically a different color because it must stand out from the other group of elements, which may be grouped by color.

Grouping by similarity improves the user experience on websites because it can help visitors understand where they are on a site and which types of content relate to others. The law of similarity ensures a better user experience because it groups all similar elements together. Therefore, all your CTAs with the same purpose should be the same size and color and use the same text.

Since the human mind organizes elements based on similarity, you can use this principle to create a design that uses similar shapes to create a new shape that's simple and easy to read.

Good figure

The law of good figure, also known as symmetry and order, uses symmetry to make design elements simple. Using the law of good figure allows you to use the same visual elements together to create a larger image even though the brain does not complicate the visuals and instead sees the individual elements that create the new figure.

Ultimately, good figure creates a sense of order, allowing the human brain to easily interpret the image or different elements on a web page. For example, the brain groups together ordered and symmetrical elements, allowing you to understand the different types of content on a website.

Proximity

The law of proximity in Gestalt theory focuses on related elements based on their location or distance apart. The closer elements are to each other, the more related they are. Putting elements together creates a visual cluster that the brain interprets as smaller parts of a whole element. For example, in web design, the elements related to each other will be closer to one another in the navigation menu.

The same is true for visual elements. Designers can use distinct visual elements and group them to create an entirely new shape.

Continuity

Continuity refers to elements that are aligned the same but can be used to create a new object. For example, you can use squares to create a rectangle. Elements on the same line will appear more closely related to one another since eyes naturally follow those paths. An example of continuation is an Instagram grid, which allows elements to unite to create a unified whole as the eye follows the different posts along the grid.

Continuity makes the design more engaging because you can lead your audience where you want them to go. Since users will naturally follow lines, all you have to do is find a way to lead them through a series of images or graphics.

Closure

The law of closure refers to the fact that the human brain can fill in the blanks. Designers can use shapes to create an image without having to create the actual image, allowing the human brain to fill in the blanks. Closure doesn't require fully closed and completed shapes because the eye fills in the missing visual data. Because the mind finds patterns on its own, all designers have to do is provide the brain with enough visual data to allow the mind to interpret the rest on its own.

Closure uses negative space to create smaller parts of a whole visual. One famous example of closure is the NBC logo. At first, the logo looks like the same shape repeated in different colors. However, upon closer inspection, you can see the outline of a peacock's body to understand that the colored shapes are actually the peacock's feathers.

Closure also works in web design because users want to finish seeing the image their mind has created. If you leave some of your elements peeking out just beyond the fold, users are more likely to scroll to the next part of your website.

Figure/Ground

Figure/ground refers to the relationship between positive and negative space. As we've mentioned, you can use negative space to create an example of closure. However, you can also use negative and positive space to create contrast and help elements of your design stand out.

The Girl Scouts logo is a great example of figure/ground because it combines negative space with positive space to create unique shapes in the form of faces. The brain can distinguish different visual elements by using positive space to complete the design in negative space. Additionally, a foreground and a background can form 2 different images, making for an interesting design.

Synchrony

Gestalt theory originally had only 6 principles, but synchrony, also known as "common fate," has been added. Synchrony states that the human brain groups together elements pointing in the same direction. Common fate is most referenced in regards to movement and animation in web design since objects moving in the same direction can be grouped by the mind.

How–and why–you should use Gestalt principles

Gestalt design principles focus on the different elements used to form and create a new image. Ultimately, how humans perceive images can impact their experience with a brand. Since the brain forms complex patterns, humans can easily identify objects, and designers can use different visual elements to create new elements that stand out.

Using Gestalt principles can improve design aesthetics and functionality, ultimately increasing website engagement and enhancing user experience. Luckily, there are many ways you can start using gestalt theory in your designs, including:

  • Logos: Any of the gestalt principles can help take your logo to the next level. You can also combine different laws to increase readability and make your logo unique.
  • Website design: Website design depends on quality user experience (UX). Gestalt principles can help you organize content and make it easier for visitors to find what they're looking for.
  • Email newsletters: Similar to web design, gestalt principles can help you organize content on your email newsletters to improve UX.
  • Print materials: Gestalt principles can help print materials look more appealing by using shapes and colors that easily lead a reader through the information.

Create eye-catching designs

Gestalt principles can improve your design, allowing you to understand how human psychology affects how people perceive your branding efforts. Playing with different elements to create new shapes can help your business stand out online and in print while improving UX to increase sales. In addition, you can incorporate these principles into your designs to strengthen them and help your customers form a meaningful relationship with your business.

Use the gestalt principles in your website when you design it with Mailchimp's website builder. First, consider how you can keep your visitors engaged and lead them seamlessly through the customer journey. Next, test your website performance and find new ways to engage customers. Then, when you’re ready to begin marketing your brand, you can use Mailchimp’s suite of automation tools to create elegant emails to increase traffic to your website and boost customer engagement.

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