Gestalt principles in UI design

What is Gestalt?

Gestalt (form, shape in German) is a group of visual perception principles developed by German psychologists in 1920s. It is built on the theory that “an organized whole, is perceived as greater than the sum of its parts”.

The Gestalt principles attempt to describe how people perceive visual elements when certain conditions apply. They are built on four key ideas:

Emergence

People tend to identify elements first in their general outlined form. Our brain recognises a simple, well-defined object quicker than a detailed one.

Reification

People can recognise objects even when there are parts of them missing. Our brain matches what we see with familiar patterns stored in our memory and fills in the gaps.

Multi-Stability

People will often interpret ambiguous objects in more than one ways. Our brains will bounce back and forth between the alternatives seeking certainty. As a result, one view will become more dominant while the other one will get harder to see.

Invariance

People tend to identify elements first in their general outlined form. Our brain recognises a simple, well-defined object quicker than a detailed one.

Here’re the Gestalt principles which can inform today’s UI design.

Proximity

Similarity

Symmetry

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