Say “Ger-SHtalt”

The benefit of having Marit as a tutor is you will never pronounce German words wrongly anymore! I’m thankful, because I used to say “Ge-stalten” or “Gestalt” without the “SH” sound for the ‘s’ when I was referring to the Art & Design book publisher Gestalten (their books are lovely!). Another difficult one we encountered in Studio today was “Tschichold” as in Jan Tschichold, Swiss-German designer and typographer.

Anyway, back to the topic. We discussed Gestalt Theory in Studio today with Marit and Alistair. It was actually really enlightening to see how this Theory made sense of how all of us as humans perceive and interpret our visual observations.

It was explained that Gestalt Theory

  • allows us to predict how viewers respond to design,
  • and assures our design is understood by viewers.

“Gestalt” is the German word for “Form”, and the Theory emphasises that a whole is different from the sum of its parts.

The Gestalt Theory has 6 laws, namely:

  1. Law of Proximity; things close together are grouped together.
  2. Law of Similarity; similar objects are grouped together or perceived as the same form, unit. This also applies to typographic hierarchy, where similar typesetting groups information together.
  3. Law of Good Continuation; where a continuous directional flow of objects will lead the eye along.
  4. Law of Closure; the tendency for our brain to finish or close up almost-whole objects like circles or squares to see a complete shape/form.
  5. Law of Prägnanz (Conciseness); the tendency for our brain to organise complicated objects into forms/wholes that may be simple/symmetrical/regular as opposed to unfamiliar.
  6. Law of Figure/Ground; where a visual stimulus will be perceived as separate from its ‘ground’, where we see a positive and negative interplay of space and form, and when the negative space emphasises the positive and vice versa.

One term that is a direct consequence of the Gestalt Theory is Pareidolia, where we perceive vague and random stimuli into significant and recognisable things, like seeing ‘castles in the clouds’.

If we harness these laws and take advantage of how they dictate the way we see things, we can indeed formulate and present information that is more functional, useful, and attractive.


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