Gestalt Theory

Definition of Gestalt Theory

A series of principles that gives an added understanding to a combination of elements in a group. This understanding is not possible to achieve by understanding each of the elements separately, nor the sum of them, but only as a unit. The unit is perceived as something else entirely than the actual elements it constitutes.

There are different standards of this theory in use, but they are all about wholeness meant to be grasped as “other” than the sum of their parts.


Logos representing Gestalt Principles

Here are a few logos each representing one gestalt principle.




Principle: “Similarity occurs when objects look similar to one another. People often perceive them as a group or pattern.”

Sun Microsystems, besides creating a pattern, the similarities of the U and N also make up the S.




Principle: “Continuation occurs when the eye is guided to move through one object and continue to the next object.”

USA network, the eye is lead from the “u” through the “s” into the “a”.




Principle: “Closure occurs when an object is incomplete or space is not completely enclosed.”

Carrefour, the shapes of the right and left arrows make the “C” visible although the lines on top and bottom are not closed.


Principle: “When elements are placed close together, they tend to be perceived as a group.”

Woolmark, the proximity of all the curves grouped tight together are shaping a ball of yarn.

Figure and Ground

Principle: “The eye differentiates an object from its surrounding area.”

FedEx, The “E” and “x”, as the surrounding areas, shapes an arrow pointing to the right.


Four examples of themes of thinking

There are several themes of thinking or approaches for different types of content design.


Keep it short and simple. The idea is to strip a design to its essential elements. To do this, you’ll need a clear understanding of the message that has to be communicated and the audience it is to be directed towards.

Example site: Åh studio

Åh is a design studio (of course). They have managed to strip the site of unnecessary decorations. The stacking of items in their portfolio gives the impression of much activity without excessive text or fancy details, but elegant to the point pictures. Personally, I think they communicate a clear message that Åh understands design. Their design theme thinking will most likely make future clients curious for more information.

Ockham’s razor:

“Elements that are not really needed should be cut back to produce something simpler. In doing so, the risk of introducing inconsistencies and confusion will be reduced.”

Example site: Vice News

Vice News is not at all dense with big cheap headlines or articles fighting for attention. It is all presented as exclusive and in-depth journalism. There are no distractions. The only spotlight is on the news itself. Great overview of an infinite number of articles represented in a carefully structured and minimalist design.


Text minimization:

“This suggests that text should be kept to a minimum, with sentences pared back to short, sharp phrases that have a meaningful impact.”

Example site: iconwerk

iconwerk is a design company. Their site is a great example of text minimization and “show, not tell” approach. Only a few easy to read lines sum up each article consisting mainly of graphics and photos from their latest jobs. The small, but few captions throughout the site, are easy to consume and complements the content very well.



“This simply means that “there is more than one way to do it” and follows the belief that a problem may have several different, but equally valid, solutions”

Example site: object_ify 139

object_ify 139 is an art and object store where you can find affordable prints. This web shop is heavy on graphics and differs quite much from ordinary web shops. The background might disturb the information in the foreground, but it seems intentional. It works quite nice from a usability point of view. The interaction flows well. No awkward navigation. I guess a web shop can be made in a different but equally good way.



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