From Oxford English Dictionary

Pronunciation: /ɡəʃˈtalt/
Etymology: German, = form, shape.
A ‘shape’, ‘configuration’, or ‘structure’ which as an object of perception forms a specific whole or unity incapable of expression simply in terms of its parts (e.g. a melody in distinction from the notes that make it up); cf. configuration n. 6. Freq. attrib., as Gestalt psychology n. a school of psychology which holds that perceptions, reactions, etc., are Gestalts; also ellipt.

The Laws

The basis for the laws implies that the mind percives something as a whole rather than the sum of its parts. I’ve broken each of the laws down and tried to explain them with examples and use cases in graphic design, web design and layout.

Law of Proximity

The law of proximity (or the law of grouping) states that a person looking at a set of objects will percieve objects of closer proximity as a group. In the example below we can see that the 18 circles are percived as 3 destinct groups of 6 circles each.

Example 1

Proximity is also used to when trying to define a whole out of a collection of sub elements. Arranging them in close approximation makes them appear as a whole. In the exaple below the circles on the right aren’t close enough to have proximity but the circles on the left have close proximity and appear as a whole.

Example 1

Law of Similarity

The human mind tend to look for patterns. We can use this to our advantage in design and layout to give the best possible user experiene.


Coloring things with the same attributes is frequently used in app- and webdesign. For instance, coloring clickable elements similarly to one another gives the user a clear indication of what elements are interactable.

Example 1


Shaping things in a similar fashion subconsciously ties them together in the mind of the user. This can be used to contion the user to parse design elements in a specifik way. Shaping an interactive element one way can ensure that next time the user encounters a similar element they will know what it does and how to use it.

Example 1


Elements of equal size conveys the same amount of urgency or importance. Take for example a news site. Making a size based hierarchy wherein article headings are alle the same size but different from excerpts and categories. This gives the user an understanding of what the different elements on the page are and what their relationship is to one another.

Example 1

Law of Closure

The mind is incredible at visualizing shapes even if they actually aren’t there. This is a very popular principle in logodesign. For some great examples see IBM and WWF.

Example 1