Gestalt Principles User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

Gestalt Principles: Concept Definition

Gestalt principles describe how the human eye perceives visual elements—in particular, they tell us that complex images tend to be reduced to simpler shapes. It’s summarised by Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka: “The whole is other than the sum of parts.” This means the whole of an image is perceived as a separate entity from its individual parts.

Gestalt principles are used in creating many optical illusions, like the image that depicts both an elderly woman and a young lady. Because we perceive the whole of an image differently from its constituent parts, we are able to create images that trick our eyes to perceive interesting “wholes” out of seemingly meaningless “individual” elements.

In UX design and interaction design, Gestalt principles play a large role in making interfaces usable and easy to understand. Designers can use the Gestalt principle of proximity, where elements that are arranged together can form a more complex image, to group conceptually similar elements together in a website. An example would be grouping an image, a title, and an excerpt together in an “article card” design. Conversely, a wrong use of proximity, where elements of an interface are grouped together even when they have nothing to do with one another, might result in confusion instead.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Gestalt Principles. Here’s the full list: