Gestalt Principles: What the Gestalt Principles of Design Are and How to Use Them

Our brains are incredible. They are not only wired to see patterns, logic, and structure. But they also are capable of putting all this information together to make sense of the world.

That is why when the Gestalt Principles of Design were developed in the 1920s, these theories became a game-changer for artists and designers around the world, as there was finally a way to figure out how people think and perceive their surrounding environment.

To better help, you understand what these Gestalt Principles are and how you can use them. We have created this post to explore these principles in more detail and provide you with all the information you need to know.

Why Learn About the Gestalt Principles of Design?

The Gestalt Principles of Design are rules that help describe how a human's eye perceives specific visual elements and groups them together. Typically, these principles aim to show how complicated pictures, patterns, and scenes can be reduced to more simple shapes.

What are the Gestalt Principles?

In general, the Gestalt Principles are made up of numerous overlapping theories. However, the most widely recognized ones include:

Gestalt Principle of Closure

When we view a shape, we prefer when it is complete. This means we automatically fill in the gaps between elements to create an entire image. That is why we often see the whole picture first before we focus on specific details. Generally, you can apply this principle when you want to create an image using cleverly placed elements, such as shapes, dots, and lines. Take, for example, IBM's unique logo that is made up of horizontal blue stripes. 

Gestalt Principle of Proximity

The Gestalt Principle of Proximity indicates that when things are close together, they appear to be more related than things or objects spaced further apart. This principle is incredibly compelling and often overrides the similarity of shapes and colors that may differentiate a group of items.

Gestalt Principle of Similarity

The Gestalt Principle of Similarity indicates that when things appear to be similar to each other, they will automatically be grouped together and tend to give off the impression they have the same type of function. There are numerous design elements that can establish the principle of similarity, such as color, shapes, and organization.

Gestalt Principle of Continuity

The Gestalt Principle of Continuity states that if an element is arranged on a curve or a line, it is perceived to be more related than other elements not on the line or the curve. This is usually because your eye will naturally follow a line or a curve, which will create a stronger signal of relatedness.

For instance, Amazon often uses the Gestalt Principle of Continuity to communicate that products are related to each other by lining them up.

Gestalt Principles of Figure/Ground

Most of us hate uncertainty. As a result, we look for stable items. This means that if we look at an image, and it is not ambiguous, we will automatically see its foreground first.

The Gestalt Principles of Figure/ Ground indicate that people perceive objects instinctively as either in the background or foreground. Meaning they either stand out to us in the front (the figure) or the back (the ground). This principle is often used to let us know what we should be focusing on and what we can ignore in an image.


When we use the Gestalt Principles, we help users to understand what they are looking at and allow them to find what they want to know from an image relatively quickly. However, when we fail to use these principles correctly, our users will struggle to make associations between certain items and end up quitting trying to understand what an image means. 

Need to Download CorelDRAW?

Download a Free 15-Day Trial Now!