Resolve Ambiguities, Impose Structure, Make Connections
In the 1920s a group of German psychologists studying visual perception learned that the human brain seeks patterns. We don’t see objects in isolation; we see them as part of a greater whole, and we make connections between the individual parts. In fact, we often “see” things that aren’t really there because we are trying so hard to create unity and closure.
This is the second of two blog posts (Gestalt for Writers: Part One) about applying gestalt principles to written text.
If three sections of text are in blue ink and one section is in red, two things happen. First of all, readers will assume that the blue sections are related because they look the same. Secondly, the section in red will stand out and be perceived as more important because it’s different and because red symbolizes urgency.
We are very aware when designs are symmetrical and asymmetrical. In fact, we crave symmetry. A doorway with a column on only one side would look odd. However, asymmetry is a powerful tool for creating movement and energy.
“The spatial arrangement of text, that is, the use of blank space, the arrangement of rows and columns, and the juxtaposition of words and graphics can influence the way readers see the text. The document designer needs to create these spatial arrangements in order to lead the readers to see the text in specific ways. Leading readers and helping them to follow the order and importance of information efficiently and effectively is, in essence, the overall goal of the document designer.” (Gary Bastoky)
The following articles shaped my thoughts and provided graphic examples:
Andy Rutledge – blog posts on gestalt and graphic design:
Figure Ground Relationships
Proximity, Connectedness, Continuation
Fundamentals of Document Design for the Technical Writer, Gary Bastoky
Before and After magazine – Gestalt Theory: Equilibrium
Gestalt Theory in Visual Screen Design – A New Look at an Old Subject
Jeremy Bolton – gestalt principles and logos
The Law of Similarity and Anomaly
The Law of Closure
In addition, Presentation Zen Design by Garr Reynolds has a section on gestalt.