The Best Photos to Illustrate: Gestalt Theory

Our mind is the most complex amalgam of neurons and synapses, drawing its information from various stimuli, including the outside environment. Those who stand behind Gestalt theory rely heavily on the wealth of information that visual perception brings to us and applaud the way our brain tends to group items that have certain elements in common. It is because we have this unique ability that we are able to come up with amazing things, including in the field of web design. Let us see the best photos that can illustrate the principles behind Gestalt theory.

Is that a Smiley face or not?

Aristotle said that the whole is different from the sum of its parts and this remained to be one of the most famous and obvious principles of the Gestalt theory. The elements that compose the smiley face are the same in both pictures but they are grouped differently; we know that the eyes and the mouth belong to the face, so our minds naturally group these elements together. Our mind needs to grasp each and every complex concept, so it arranges each piece of information into a pattern. This is why professional web designers are appreciated for the projects that are very well arranged, thus being pleasing to the eye.

Does the line continue or not?

If you have never heard of the principle of continuity, then this is the perfect picture to illustrate it. According to this principle of Gestalt theory, there is a direct relation between the elements arranged on a line rather than those that are not on that specific line. Even though there are distinct colors present in the image – red and black – the black dots that are present on the vertical line are more related to the red dots present on the same line; and the same thing happens for the curved line.

Faces or hands?

Even though the most popular photography on the Internet is the one depicting two faces looking at each other (or, depending on how you visually perceive it, a vase), the one chosen above is based on the same principle. The idea is that we also have a different visual perception and our brain directs the way images are interpreted. If no one had provided you with a clue about what you are seeing here, your answer would have been either way: two people or two hands; for others, it might have been an embrace between two people. We are so complex that we are able to interpret depth, color and form at the same time and this can be a pretty useful thing for web design.


On the web, you might have seen this principle illustrated with the photo of a panda or the famous IBM Logo. I have chosen a similar example, presenting the word that stand behind the entire theory, Gestalt. The basic idea behind the closure principle is that our mind completes the missing pieces of information, when a picture is not complete. When we are looking at the word Gestalt from above, we are fully conscious that each letter has white stripes (interpreted by the brain as missing information) but our perception is modified so that the whole is interpreted without any effort. This principle has been used for the making of various logos, having a strong effect on the visual perception and memory.

Eagle or sun?

Even though you might have seen this picture before on the Internet, you probably haven’t stopped to wonder what are the elements contained. Your brain has quickly interpreted the eagle surrounded by the sun and you moved on. However, if you spend some time trying to analyze the picture, you will soon discover that the eagle contains similar elements with the sun; this is the reason why you brain has interpret this image as a whole. This picture is the perfect illustration of the similarity principle, which happens when there are elements that look similar and the brain concentrates them into a single pattern or image. In this case, the triangular shapes are the similar elements, so you can see the eagle, the sun or the image as a whole.

Proximity and whole

Regardless of the country in which you will find this logo, be it the United States or one of the Arab countries, you will see that the perception is the same. This is a situation where the proximity principle applies, with elements that are perceived as being part of the same group because they are located closely to one another. Proximity is one of the principles often used in the field of web design because it allows for organized layouts to be created, with just enough white space to guarantee the desired visual perception.

In conclusion, there are many examples that could be discovered in order to illustrate the principles of Gestalt theory. What you need to understand is that our mind is more complex than we even begin to imagine, always discovering adaptive ways to interpret the wealth of information that is transmitted through various sources. Gestalt theory has had a major effect on the development of web design and who knows what the future will bring? Maybe there will be new principles discovered or new ways to interpret the ones that already exist. In the meantime, enjoy the numerous application of Gestalt theory in the field of web design.