Gestalt Laws of Perception: Using Gestalt Theory to Improve Print and Electronic Designs

By Lisa M. Graham.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Gestalt theory has been utilized since the mid-twentieth century by visual communicators to improve their static, print documents. A simple definition of gestalt is a design, configuration, pattern, or layout whose sum is greater than its individual parts. Gestalt theory was founded in the 1920’s by three German Psychologists, Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler. Their theories has been studied and interpreted by researchers in many areas: including psychologists, artists, visual designers, educators, and communication professionals.

A survey of the literature of the field reveals many variants in Gestalt theory laws as interpreted by psychologists, by some counts, up to 114 laws of gestalten. The majority of these gestalt laws (minus perhaps a dozen or so) are applicable to visual form.

Despite the pertinence of these laws to visual form, almost all visual design researchers concentrate on the gestalt laws most likely to improve the design of a static, print document. Most visual design researchers ignore the applicability of these laws to interactive or electronic documents. The author examines the body of gestalt laws of perception, and, in this paper applies them to print and electronic documents. The result will be a useful set of gestalt laws that authors and designers may use to rapidly improve their pages in both print and onscreen electronic form.

Keywords: Gestalt Theory, Print Design, Electronic Design, Interactive Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.385-394. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.307MB).

Lisa M. Graham

Associate Professor, Art and Art History, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA

Lisa M. Graham, MFA, LEED AP, is an Associate Professor of Visual Communication at the University of Texas at Arlington. She has practiced visual communication for over 20 years, working for a variety of regional, national, and international clients. Author of three books and numerous papers and articles, her research interests include the design and programming of health care facilities, gestalt theory, experience design, sustainable design, interactive design, universal design, motion typography, environmental typography, and design ethics.

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