Image: Nick Damico
Consumers want integrity and continuity. They want to know if they click this button, it still feels like they’re on the same website, that the traits of the product are reflected in the packaging, or that the look and feel of a magazine is a continuation of the style promised by the cover. To elicit any form of reaction we should first understand how humans perceive visual stimuli.
A group of German psychologists in the 1920s put together a bunch of theories, some of which describe how we organise visual elements into groups. This was called ‘Gestalt Psychology’ which means ‘unified whole’ – and stems from the same idea that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts’. It includes the following principles:
Similarity: This occurs when objects look similar to one another and become perceived as a group or pattern. It allows certain objects to be emphasised by making them different to the rest (anomalies).
Continuation: When the eye is compelled to move through one object into another.
Image: Malika Favre
Closure: Plays on the brain’s ability to fill in the missing information when an object is incomplete or a space is not completely enclosed.
Image: Wolff Olins
Proximity: The idea that when various elements are placed in close enough proximity they are perceived as a group, rather than isolated objects.
Image: Lemel Yossi
Figure & Ground: The relationship between foreground and background is mutually exclusive – neither can be perceived except in relation to the other, and you can’t change one without affecting the other. There are 3 types:
Stable: (e.g. a black circle on a white page) – it’s obvious which is figure and which is ground.
Reversible: (e.g. equal black & white stripes) – figure and ground have equal prominence, creating tension.
Ambiguous: (e.g. see Amnesty graphic above) – figure and ground are hard to determine, leaving the viewer to decipher the design for themselves.