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Gestalt principles | Definition

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What are the gestalt principles?

"The whole is something else than the sum of its parts." – Kurt Koffka

In the 1920s, German psychologists found out that the human mind naturally organizes, understands and perceives visual elements.

At first glance, people see the whole picture before they recognize specific elements. The gestalt (German for form and shape) principles describe and explain how the human mind perceives the arrangement of elements. Understanding the gestalt principles helps to create a better UX.

The 8 gestalt principles

  • Proximity: Elements that are close together seem to be a group.

  • Closure: The human mind ignores gaps and tries to understand the bigger context.

  • Similarity: Elements that look similar seem to be a group.

  • Common region: Elements that are close together seem to belong together.

  • Continuity: Elements that are ordered in a line or curve seem to be a group.

  • Figure and ground: The human brain instinctively recognizes if something is in the fore- or background.

  • Symmetry: Symmetric elements give the human brain the feeling that everything is ordered.

  • Common fate: Elements that move in the same direction seem to belong together.

Gestalt principles and UX design

How do the gestalt principles affect user experience design?

The design principles deal with the visual perception of elements. They are not concerned with the perception of individual elements, but with the interaction of these elements.

To design successful apps that meet the needs and desires of users, an understanding of these psychological principles is essential.

If you understand these principles, you can organize and structure the interface elements in your apps. You can create a clear and intuitive user interface and deliver a pleasant and entertaining user experience.

Many of these design principles are already applied intuitively. Disregarding the rules often contradicts the designer's ideas and feelings.

Nevertheless, knowledge of the design principles helps to make more conscious decisions and provide the user with a good UX.

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