Cant... stop... the procrastination...

The Gestalt Psychologists investigated the way humans process information from a two dimensional surface, and outlined a series of visual principles of perception that are extremely relevant to this day, particularly in the fields of design. The Gestalt Principles are as follows:

  • Similarity. The human eye groups objects and forms that have similar size, shape, colour, spatial location, angle or value.
  • Proximity. The eye mentally correlates or distances objects depending on their nearness to each other.
  • Continuation. The viewers eye will naturally follow a line or curve, influencing the order in which they process objects on the page.
  • Closure. The eye mentally "completes" familiar forms, whether they are actually completed on the page or not.
  • Figure/Ground. The eye processes both a "figure" (an object, symbol or image placed on a plane} and a "ground" (usually rendered as a background). The ability to distinguish between the two is dependant on contrast level as well as all the principles listed above.
The Gestalt psychologists recognized that there is an interplay of tensions among shapes on a flat surface, because the appearance of any one element or shape depends upon it's surroundings. A good designer will realize that the eye is affected by all of these principles, and in order for a poster/advertisement/image to communicate quickly and effectively, it must explain a phenomenon n the minimum number of steps. The basic law of visual perception is that any stimulus pattern tends to be seen as a structure as simple as conditions permit.

These principles are most effective in revealing some of the more subtle triumphs of a good design - subconscious correlations we may not even be aware we are making.