Gestalt Definition

In Design Theory on March 18, 2010 at 8:38 pm

The Laws of Gestalt originated from the field of psychology. After a little research, I found a dictionary definition — “A physical, biological, psychological, or symbolic configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gestalt). Then, I found that Shippensburg University’s website states “Gestalt psychology is based on the observation that we often experience things that are not a part of our simple sensations” (http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/gestalt.html). For a more design-related definition, I found “Gestalt psychology attempts to understand psychological phenomena by viewing them as organized and structured wholes rather than the sum of their constituent parts” (http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/gestalt_principles_of_form_perception.html). While these all sound somewhat completed, gestalt can be defined as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Gestalt laws or principles explain how human beings form perceptions with the help of past experiences and, therefore, what we perceive can be different from reality.

Some of the more important gestalt principles include:

  • Similarity — Similar objects are often perceived as a group.
  • Continuation — Continuation occurs when the human eyes follow the direction from one object to another, perceiving separate objects as one.
  • Closure — When gaps appear between shapes, people tend to mentally close those gaps and form a perception of a whole object.
  • Proximity — Objects placed close together are often perceived as a group.
  • Figure and Ground — Different shapes that are formed by the foreground (figure) and background (ground).

I illustrated these principles below:

Gestalt Principles

Figure and Ground

Gestalt - figure and ground


Gestalt - closure


Gestalt - continuation


Gestalt - proximity


Gestalt - similarity




  1. Reblogged this on 2D Design.

  2. Hi, I am a student completing a project on Gestalt theory. I am preparing a presentation for my class and I would like to know if I can use your great Gestalt images in the presentation (credit would be given to you, of course)?

    • Hi Frances, I know I’m way late in responding to your request and I apologize for that. Hope you found other resources that you needed and are well on your way to your dream career.

  3. Excellent blog …goods helpfull topcis..You have a new reader!
    Nice day ❤

  4. Some words and concepts completely elude my full understanding.

    Gestalt is one such word.

    Formerly, when it was bedded within psychological jargon, it was nearly impossible to grasp but now when I see it framed within design principles, there is a remote chance at gaining ground.

    Thank you for your illustrative post which has provided me with a springboard…

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