4 Minutes
   //   Jun 19, 2020

UI Design Guided by Gestalt Principles.

Priyanka Jeph

The whole of a visual is the first thing the human mind perceives before focusing on the individual parts that create a design. Our brain has it's own ways of perceiving shapes and form, grouping information and fill in the gaps to draw a whole picture. The simplest example of the gestalt principles is the familiar shapes we see within the clouds.

 

Picture of a cloud.

 

“Gestalt” is German for “unified whole”. A clear understanding of these principles helps determine the effective visual elements which influence perception, direct attention toward the focused elements and cause perception change in consumers. Gestalt principles are particularly helpful when it comes to goal-oriented, problem solving and intuitive user interface design.

As we now understand that these principles assist the way we perceive the world and human minds always try to create order within chaos, our attempt is to create web designs and applications guided by the gestalt principles.

 

Proximity

The gestalt principle of proximity explains that elements that are closer together are perceived to be more related than elements that are farther apart. When objects are close, they tend to be perceived as one group. Proximity is essential to our perception and is more relative than shape and form in visual designs. White space plays an essential role in the principle. It influences the relation between different elements.

The principle of proximity is applied in UI as grouping similar information, organising content and decluttering layouts.

A picture showing the proximity principle of the Gestalt law

 

Common Fate

When elements move in the same direction they are perceived as part of the same group by the human brain. The principle of common fate is fundamental in motion design. In animation, it helps connect content and trigger the movement and capture attention intentionally from one element to another. It is also used to bring elements into the foreground, indicating the interaction of importance.

In UI design the common fate applies to the elements like nested menus, dropdown or accordions, It helps to bring clarity in menu options and is always applied in animation.

An example of Common fate principle of the Gestalt's law.

 

Continuity

The principle of continuity is applied when the eyes have to be deliberately guided to move from one object to another since the elements arranged in a line or a soft curve are perceived to be more related than those arranged randomly or in a harsh line.

In user interface design the principle of continuity can be applied to components containing tabs or dropdown selections with a partial option within view provides an affordance that there are additional options or interactions.

 

An image of the continuity principle of the Gestalt's law

 

Similarity

Elements which share similar visual attributes are perceived to be more related than those that do not share similar attributes.

The main characteristics which influence the impression of similarity are size, shape, and color. In the group of “similar” elements, We tend to see objects with the similarity of colors first, then size and tend to notice the similarity of shapes at the end.

It's how the people recognise a particular pattern in UI they categorize them as particular patterns. This is why it is so crucial for the primary buttons to look the same on every page.

 

The similarity principle of the Gestalt law

 

Closure

When an object is incomplete, but enough of the item is indicated, the mind fills in the gap to create a closed pattern itself. Even with incomplete elements, the objects are usually considered as a whole form.

In UI design the principle of closure is used by just showing a bit of another element to influence scrolling. This also helps in decreasing the number of elements to increase simplicity. It helps to decrease visual noise and influence engagement is required in loading states, completion meters. The principle of closure is also applied in logos and iconography to increase readability.

 

The closure principle of the Gestalt law

 

Common Region

Elements which are placed within the same region are perceived as one group. In UI design the principle of the common region is applied elements like navigation bars, tables, menus, form sections, etc.

It guides in grouping information and organising content but also assists in content separation, this principle simply boots hierarchy, scalability and highlights information as needed.

 

Common region principle of the Gestalt law.

 

Symmetry

Elements put in symmetrical order are perceived as they belong together regardless of their distance and give a feeling a systematic sequence to eliminate confusion. Symmetry is also used to evoke simplicity and create a balanced pattern where information can be absorbed more quickly and efficiently.

UI Elements that are symmetrical to each other help in recognizing a definitive pattern. Symmetrical navigation menus are perceived to be more stable. Symmetry is beneficial when used in portfolios, photo galleries, product display bars and pages, listings, navigation, banners, and on pages with heavy content.

 

Symmetry principle of the Gestalt's law.

 

In Conclusion

A design that doesn't confuse people and assists visually to the right options is considered a good design. User Interface is about quick and easy communication of information and the Gestalt law helps in achieving this goal. Gestalt creates a sense of UI design discipline. These rules may also come intuitive to designers and making a conscious choice to follow gestalt's laws to create clutter-free design driving brand identification and consumer-friendly businesses.