Gestalt – design from chaos to order

As a visual designer, I am fascinated how people process visual perceptual information. The design process is about bringing order and form to our visual world. Gestalt Psychologists in the 1930’s suggested some basic perceptual rules that the brain automatically and unconsciously follows as it organises sensory information into meaningful wholes. Gestalt in German means form, figure or shape. The Gestalt psychologists began to question the efforts of classical psychologists and behaviourists to reduce perception to an assortment of sensation. It was clear perception tended to structure itself in unitary entities or ‘wholes’ that some areas of perceptual mosaic move together and can be handled as units.

Figure-ground perception

When we look at the world, we see a multitude of objects or figures that seem to stand away from the background. Such as the words that I am typing in black against the white background. In a website design, I intuitively separate the web elements so that they are distinct from their background. The navigation menu needs to be seen separate from its background.  With the figure below what do you see?

Proximity

Our brains tend to group objects that are close to one another. When the dots are placed together in groups, we see three separate groups of dots. Objects that are brought closer together tend to interrupt the discontinuous and ‘non-unified’.

Similarity

The brain tends to group similar objects that are together. We see the triangles and circles separately. On a web design page, we will keep all the buy now button looking the same so that they can be seen quickly.

Continuity

We perceive smooth continuous patterns rather than discontinuous ones. We have a preference for understanding visual information that seems to follow one another as a continuous pattern. Camouflage works on the principle of good continuation.

Simplicity

People tend to perceive the simplest pattern possible.

Closure

Our minds help us fill in the gaps to create a complete, whole object. If part of a familiar pattern or shape is missing, perceptual processes complete the pattern.

Gestalt principles describe the fundamentals of the design process. A web designer is a visual communicator, and a skilled designer is continually organising complexity so that it is understood as part of a whole

More Design Terms

  • Mission Furniture – Design Dictionary Term

    Mission Furniture – Design Dictionary Term

    The term mission furniture was first popularized by Joseph P. McHugh of New York, a furniture manufacturer and retailer. The word mission references the Spanish missions throughout colonial California. The style became increasingly popular following the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.Read More →

  • Murrine ancient glass technique – design dictionary

    Murrine ancient glass technique – design dictionary

    When a glass cane is cut into thin cross-sections, coloured patterns or images created in the cane are revealed as murrine. One well-known design is the flower or star shape, which is known as millefiori when used in large quantities.Read More →

  • Moquette – fabric for public transport

    Moquette – fabric for public transport

    Moquette is a tough woollen fabric used for upholstery on public transportation all over the world. The fabric is typically composed of 85% wool and 15% nylon and is created using the weaving method known as jacquard. It has excellent thermal characteristics, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.Read More →

  • Typography Glossary – Design Terms

    Typography Glossary – Design Terms

    It helps to have an appropriate language to talk about typography.  The following is a glossary of some of the words and their definitions that are used to described typography.Read More →

  • Shagreen – Design Term

    Shagreen – Design Term

    Shagreen is fish skin used as a veneer to cover furniture and accessories. Also knownRead More →

  • What is Wrought Iron?

    What is Wrought Iron?

    The term “wrought iron” refers to the material rather than the products made of iron. Modern mild steel has supplanted wrought iron, a forgeable ferrous material used up until about the middle of the twentieth century. Because of the extensive forming required during its production—under power hammers and through rollers—it was originally referred to as “wrought” (or “worked”). Read More →

  • Guilloche two banded decorative motif

    Guilloche two banded decorative motif

    The guilloche is a decorative element that encircles a line of bosses with two bands or ribbons intertwined. In the British Regency style, it was particularly well-liked and adopted by furniture designers from Renaissance to the Twenties and Fifties.Read More →

  • Cassone – the marriage chest

    Cassone – the marriage chest

    A cassone is a big decorated chest that was made in Italy between the 14th and 16th centuries. In 1472, a Florentine merchant married a young noblewoman named Vaggia Nerli. Cassoni were put on display in the most important and well-furnished room in the palace.Read More →

  • Dovetail – design term

    Dovetail – design term

    Dovetail is the name for a shape that looks like a dove’s tail and is used in woodworking. Joints are made up of tabs in the shape of a dovetail that fit into holes in the other part. Dovetails are often used to join the corners of cabinet drawers and box shapes.Read More →

  • Agitprop art – Design and Art Term

    Agitprop art – Design and Art Term

    Agitprop art (or the art of agitation) was used to manipulate ideological beliefs, specifically to spread the ideals of Communism in Russia in the period immediately following the 1917 revolution. The term ‘agitprop’ (an abbreviation for agitation propaganda: ‘agitational propaganda’) was first used shortly after the Revolution, and the Communist Party established the Department of Agitation and Propaganda in 1920.Read More →

  • Capitalisation rules – the basics

    Capitalisation rules – the basics

    If you have ever read an old newspaper (early nineteenth century) and you look carefully at the old broadsheets.  You will notice that words are capitalised here and there and that the rules of capitalisation, some of which you will learn shortly, seem nonexistent.Read More →

  • Dada Art Movement – Making Mischief

    Dada Art Movement – Making Mischief

    As a designer, I am passionate about the history of art and their influence on ‘visual design.’  In art history, Dada is the artistic movement that preceded Surrealism, it began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916 by a group of mostly painters and painters.  Dada artworks challenged the preconceived notions of what art meant.  Many Dadaists felt that the way to salvation was through political anarchy, the natural emotions, the intuitive and the irrational.Read More →

  • Brandewijnskom – brandy bowls for birth ceremonies

    Brandewijnskom – brandy bowls for birth ceremonies

    Brandewijnskom. Brandy bowls were made in Holland and Friesland in the 17th and 18th centuries.Read More →

  • Affichiste French for Poster Designer

    Affichiste French for Poster Designer

    Affichiste. Name (literally ‘poster designer’) taken by the French artists and photographers Raymond Hains (1926-) and Jacques de la Villeglé (1926-), who met in 1949 and created a technique to create collages from pieces of torn-down posters during the early 1950s. These works, which they displayed for the first time in 1957, were called affiches lacérées (torn posters). Read More →

  • Minimalism – Less is More

    Minimalism – Less is More

    Minimalism is an art historical and critical term. The purest forms of minimalism include cubes and spheres, plain, unadorned surfaces, and solid colours. Adolf Loos’ famous quote, “Ornament is a Crime,” has become catchphrases for the minimalist design movement.Read More →

  • ‘Moderne’ Style of Art Deco Popular in the 20s & 30s

    ‘Moderne’ Style of Art Deco Popular in the 20s & 30s

    Moderne was a decorative style that was mostly about how things looked on the outside. Moderne architecture was most noticeable in public buildings like skyscrapers and movie theatres. Postmodernism later brought back a lot of the styles that were part of the moderne movement.Read More →

  • Slipware Pottery – what is it?

    Slipware Pottery – what is it?

    Slipware is pottery known by its primary decorating method in which slip is added before firing by dipping, painting or splashing on the leather-hard clay body surface. Slip is an aqueous clay body suspension that is a combination of clays and other minerals, such as quartz, feldspar, and mica.Read More →

  • Achilles Shield – Dictionary of Silverware

    Achilles Shield – Dictionary of Silverware

    A silver-gilt convex shield with a sizable central medallion depicting the shield of encrusted iron made by the god Hephaestus for Achilles at Troy, as it is described by Homer in Book 18 of the Iliad. The medallion, which depicts in high relief a figure of the Sun (Apollo) standing in a quadriga (a chariot drawn by four horses), is within a broad border decorated with a continuous frieze.Read More →

  • Academic Style – Dictionary of Silverware

    Academic Style – Dictionary of Silverware

    A style of decoration, developed in the United States, based on the copying of earlier English and French styles. The style was in the tradition of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, the designs being precise and academic. It was introduced to flatware in the 1880s, initiated at the Gorham Company and occurs in hollow ware from the late 1880s, its use continued into the 1920s.Read More →

  • Ablution basin – 📖 Dictionary of Silverware

    Ablution basin – 📖 Dictionary of Silverware

    Ablution basin. A type of basin for holding water intended: (1) in ecclesiastical usage, for rinsing the hands or some object of church plate, such as a chalice; or (2) in secular usage, for rinsing the fingers at the dinner table (sometimes called a rose-water basin). Its founder donated two ecclesiastical ablution basins in 1515-16 to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Bishop Richard Fox. See alms dish.Read More →

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