What is Gestalt?

Learn what it is and how to use Gestalt in your projects

Yeah! Td bele?

We will talk today about a subject of great relevance in design: the shape.
If you study, or have studied at some point in your life, design, psychology, communication, arts, advertising, etc.; you should already be heard and/or read about Gestalt.

Understanding how Gestalt's principles work helps us to create in a coherent, harmonious way, achieving "good form", "good preging."

In this article we will see, mainly, how Gestalt can help us in the creation of our projects.

And before we proceed with the article, I want to take the opportunity, since we're talking about Gestalt, to let you know that we're open for our Visual Design Fundamentals course. The Fundamentals of Visual Design course focuses on the fundamentals, concepts and principles of Visual Design.

In this course, along with the other fundamentals, you can delve even deeper into Gestalt. Click on the link below and learn about our course.

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So let's get started??!!

In this article you will find out:

What is Gestalt?

Gestalt is the study of human perception in relation to forms, the existence of patterns of visual behavior that the human being has. These standards form the basis for the Laws ofGestal.
This science argues that, in order to understand the parts in a way, it is necessary to understand the whole that surrounds and composes it.

In other words, we could say that Gestalt studies how our brain perceives shapes. We could translate Gestalt as "The Psychology of Forms."

He understands that our perception of things takes place as a whole, in a unified way, and not in isolated points.

"We see no isolated parts, but relationships. That is, a part in dependence on another party. For our perception, that is the result of a global feeling."

The process of interpretation of a form is related to external and internal forces.

The external forces come from the light of the object that the object reflects to our retina.

Internal forces are related to the physiological process of our brain. Given from stimulation (external forces) our nervous system tends to organize and establish forms in a coherent and unified way.

This regulation of the brain is spontaneous. We can't control it. And that our brain by seeing some form, it tries to relate information to something we've seen in the past and that's stored in our memory.

Gestalt studies why some shapes are more pleasing than others

So gestalt theory tells us that only through the perception of a whole can the brain interpret and assimilate a form or a concept.

A little bit of gestalt history...

Gestalt is a part of experimental psychology. Studies began in the late 19th century gaining momentum in the early 20th century.

Gestalt studies were about how and conscious human reacted at certain moments and appreciations and used psychological and philosophical concepts as a basis.

Christian Von Ehrenfels (Austrian philosopher), Max Wertheimer (theco psychologist), Kurt Koffka (German psychologist) and Wolfgang Köhler (Estonian psychologist) are big names at the forefront of Gestalt.

They were responsible for the first school on Gestalt. The Berlin School of Psychology.

In the mid-1920s these studies effectively arrived in the USA ( at the time land of Behaviorism – see here http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behaviorismo) thanks to Nazism.
But it was not until the 1980s that Gesltalt gained strength in English-speaking countries.

In Brazil, Nilton Campos and Annita Cabral can be mentioned as precursors of the subject.

To learn more about the gestalt go story you can access this link : http://bit.ly/1q7OMaC

Gestalt is a German noun that is difficult to translate and that means form, configuration... There is no literary translation for the Portuguese, it is customary to keep the original term. And you should always start in capital letters.

The Importance of Gestalt in Design

In design, Gestalt helps us understand how information will be passed through the ways we create.

It helps people understand and assimilate the information we pass through the images.

By studying Gestalt we can see why some forms please more than others, why we see an object in such a way, etc.

With this we can use Gestalt laws to our advantage and in a more conscious way to improve our projects and manipulate them to reach our objects of communication.

Several artists and designers use optical illusions in their work.

And we often apply gestalt laws in our work without noticing. Because as I said "they are laws regulating our nervous system", so we use these rules several times intuitively in our daily life, in our projects, or when we analyze some project and find it coherent, functional, innovative, or not.

Before going to gestalt laws, let's understand the basics of what a way is and how it is understood within the study of Gestalt.

What is a Form?

It is defined as the outer limits of the matter from which a being or object is constituted to which an appearance is conferred.

Shape can then be defined as the visible figure or image of the content.

The 4 basic properties of the shape are:
point, line, plane, volume.


It is the simplest graphics unit. It serves as a center of visual attraction within a structural schema and also as a reference to other elements that may be included in a composition.

Within Gestalt, any element, independent of the round shape, that functions as a center of visual attraction within a visual composition is considered a point.


It is a connection between points that results in a trajectory generating a sense of movement. The line conforms, skirts, and delimits objects and things in general.


The plane is a set of lines.

Considering space, the plane is a form of
homogeneous mass, as it is not possible to disregard the thickness of objects.

So we should give importance to the visual context observed.


It is something that is expressed by projection in the three dimensions in space.

In the two-dimensional drawing the volume is something illusory.

In addition to properties, shapes can also have certain attributes. Below we will know the main attributes of the form.


Anything visible has a format that we can identify. It refers to its general appearance.

Example: straight line, curved line, broken line, texture.


Refers to the surface characteristics of a format.


Every shape can be distinguished from its surroundings and its peers by color.

About color theory, color psychology and all the use and application of color, we have series here on the blog of the Chief. So if you want to know more about colors, start here (CLICK HERE)!


Size is something relative if when we refer to its greatness or smallness, but it is measurable.

You can measure the size through the dimensions of the shape.

Shape Attributes

When we draw an object we are representing its shape through properties that allow us to make it visible. Making visible, a line, for example, will have width and length.

Materials used and the way we use them determine the color and its texture. Therefore a visible shape has shape, size, color, and texture.

Still on Form, according to the book Gestalt do Objeto, we have two types of configurations: Real and Esquematic.

Real Setup

It deals with the actual representation of objects or things, in general, are the actual limits translated by points, lines, planes, volumes usually through photographs, paintings, illustrations, among others.

Quematic Configuration

It is the representation in general, through the concept structural skeleton of objects and things, figuratively and generically of the element.

Now that you know the basic properties in a way, then it's time to get to know gestalt's main laws and see some cases of application. Let's go, shall we?

Main Gestalt laws

We will now know the main Gestalt laws.

  • Unit
  • segregation
  • unification
  • Proximity
  • resemblance
  • Closure
  • Continuity
  • Pregnance of The Form


A unit is a single element that encloses in itself or also a set of perceived elements that constitute "a whole".
We can define a unit through colors, shadows, textures, dots, lines, dots, etc; isolated or related to each other.unit-2



It concerns our perceptual ability to evidence, highlight, separate one or more units in the entire composition or in parts of it. This segregation can be done by various visual elements: colors, shadows, textures, dots, lines, and so on.




Unification happens when there are equal or similar elements distributed consistently and harmoniously.
The basic principles of unification are the laws of proximity and the law of similarity.




Refers to elements that are close. Elements close to each other tend to cluster and are perceived as a whole or units within a whole.




Refers to similar elements. Similar elements tend to group together forming one as a whole or units within a whole. This similarity can be color, shape, size, texture, etc.




Continuity happens when elements are nearby and give the impression of following a certain direction. When there is an orderly repetition of the elements.




The closure is established for the formation of units through our perception. Our brain interprets a complete form if the elements are structured in a defined way.



Pregnance of The Form

That's gestalt's main law.

The more evident the shape of the object, the more intuitive and easy to understand the reading, the greater the degree of pregence of the object.

The better or clearer the organization, the greater the pregnance!

1) The clearer the visual organization of the shape of the object, in terms of ease of understanding and speed of reading or interpretation, the higher its degree of pregnance.

2) Naturally, the worse or more confusing the visual organization of the shape of the object, the lower its degree of pletnance.

Gesltat do Objeto - João Gomes Filho.

Example of Pregância




To become a qualified designer/webdesigner it is not enough just to operate software. It is essential to know the fundamentals of Design. That's not luxury, that's a necessity. Do you understand this, Galucho?

In addition, it is important that you stay up-to-date and open-minded for new technologies, trends, forms of communication and knowledge.

All this will bring you differentials and that will help you not to be just another one in the crowd.

Gestalt's study shouldn't stop here. There are many more principles to be seen. And if I could give you some advice, I'd point out the book Gestalt of the Object of João Gomes.

I hope this article has helped you in your studies.:P

And what do you think about Gestalt? Have you met him? You think you use that in your work? Leave your comment.

See you later!!

Strong hug.


Gestalt Book of the Object- João Gomes Filho

The psychology of gestalt and contemporary empirical science:http://bit.ly/1q7OMaC

Visual Language Syntax - Donis A. Dondis

Psychologist: http://psicologado.com/abordagens/humanismo/gestalt-fundadores


Sites used as examples:

Globo.com: http://globo.com/
Wallmart: http://www.walmart.com.br/
Land: http://terra.com.br/
David Arty: http://davidarty.com/
Libra Design: http://libradesign.com.br/
King of Mambo: http://www.kingsofmambo.com/
New Friday: http://www.newjumoconcept.com/
Tobias Häusler:http://tobiashaeusler.de/

David Arty

Hi I am David Arty, founder from the blog Chief of Design.
I am from São Paulo, Brazil. I work with design, mainly with web design, since 2009. I try to transform crazy and complex ideas into simple, attractive and functional pieces.

Also published on Medium.