Recently gestalt theory (also gestaltism) has gained immense popularity, especially for designers. In fact it seems to be in trend. However, gestalt principles are also very helpful and designers should know about them.
Most authors discuss gestalt principles in an abstract form. Others focus on print design. There are few articles about gestaltism in digital products. While different at first, digital and print products adhere to the same layout rules. The details might be different from print publications, but the ideas remain relevant.
In this article series I want to highlight the impact of gestaltism on digital design. Furthermore, I want to explain how and why gestaltism works. This article focuses on gestalt psychology. Later articles will discuss individual principles in detail and illustrate their application to digital design.
Why should you read this article
You can use gestalt principles without knowing about the gestalt psychology background. If this is all you want, you can skip to the next part in this series.
You probably use some of the principles in your designs already. However, using gestalt principles to explain your work is much more interesting. Clients and coworkers will understand your reasoning and why your solution works. For this it is important to not only know that there is a principle, but also why and how it works.
The idea behind gestalt psychology
Gestalt psychologists argue, that we need to organize what we see in order to make sense of the world. There is a near infinity amount of information that reaches out retinas every second. Without using patterns to order it, we would overwhelm our brain.
Psychologists describe this ordering process as the combination of sensations into coherent scenes. The result of this process is a percept. A percept is a subjectively experienced, conscious result of a perceptual process.
~ Zimbardo — Gerrig: Psychology
The idea is, that we make sense of our world by seeing the whole of it, rather than the individual parts.