For a company to become one of the best web design agencies, they require designers that understand the critical role of the Gestalt principles of design. These principles set the stage for visual communication, as well as provide critical guidelines for designing a stunning, usable site.

Learn more about the eight Gestalt design principles now!

Who Is Gestalt?

Gestalt, when discussing the principles of Gestalt, actually refers to a group of German researchers. These researchers, which consisted of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Metzger, were otherwise called Gestalt psychologists.

These psychologists all aimed to understand the laws behind a person’s understanding of a chaotic world. In other words, they wanted to see how we can perceive and breakdown complex scenes in the everyday world, like seeing a cluster of clouds as a ship.

With this goal, the team of psychologists developed the Gestalt principles of design. They built their design principles on four critical factors, which include emergence, reification, multi-stability, and invariance.

The 4 Factors Behind the Gestalt Principles

For a more in-depth look into the four factors that built the Gestalt principles, check out this breakdown:


Emergence means you’re capable of recognizing a less-detailed, yet simple form faster than a detailed, intricate element. If someone shows you an outline of a cat, for example, you can recognize that it’s a cat without second-guessing yourself.


Reification refers to your ability to “fill in the gaps” when identifying a partially completed form. When this happens, your brain does a reference check, looking back on structures stored in your memory to find the perfect match. The logo for the World Wildlife Fund is an excellent example of reification.


Multi-stability happens when you see forms in more than one way. For example, while one person sees the image of a vase, another will see two faces. If you want to see the other form, you often have to refocus your attention.


Invariance describes your ability to recognize simple objects, like a piece of dice, no matter its rotation, scale, or translation. That’s because your brain can identify forms from different perspectives, though only for simple objects.

What Are the 8 Gestalt Design Principles?

Ready to learn about the eight Gestalt design principles? Explore them now!

1.     Proximity

Proximity explains the arrangement or closeness of design elements. When you place elements closer to one another, they appear related. In comparison, elements further apart look separate from one another.

In web design, proximity plays a vital role.

An example of the gestalt design principle proximity

When your agency creates a design for your website, they want to create an intuitive organization of elements. Without thinking, people can browse your site with ease, understanding which elements are a part of a group and which work separately.

An excellent example of proximity in web design comes from blogs.

Your blog, for instance, may feature a sidebar for related posts. The proximity of this sidebar to a post indicates its relation to your blog. It’s featuring similar or recent blog posts that may offer value to viewers on your website.

2.     Similarity

Similarity describes the perceived relation between similar elements. It’s an automatic grouping process, allowing your brain to make sense of a complex environment or layout. You can use this Gestalt principle to organize elements by size, shape, color, and more.

Why does similarity matter in web design?

An example of the gestalt design principle similarity

Because it possesses the power to expedite and simplify a user’s experience. It can also help your business attract users to a specific feature or element on your page, like a button for calling your company, adding your product to a virtual shopping cart, and more.

In most cases, web designers use color and shape to leverage similarity. A web element for text, for example, may feature a dark color, while an overlaying button appears in a bright color to draw the attention of the user.

3.     Closure

Closure refers to your ability to look at a group of elements (which are often incomplete) as a whole shape. For example, someone could draw half a circle, and you could easily tell that those elements make up a circle.

In web design, closure serves a critical role for iconography.

An example of the gestalt design principle closure

With iconography, your website can break down complex ideas into simple shapes. For example, if you’re a car repair shop, you may use a tool, oil, and tire icon to convey some of your services, like regular maintenance, oil changes, and tire rotation.

The icons you choose, as well as the design of those icons, can have a tremendous impact on the experience of your users. That’s why it’s worth partnering with a top web design agency that understands not only web design but also iconography.

4.     Symmetry

Symmetry explains everyone’s tendency to see symmetrical elements as one group. No matter how far apart these elements are, your brain sees those elements as a group to establish order in a complex environment.

In web design, symmetry matters for several reasons.

An example of the gestalt design principle symmetry

When someone browses your website, they want an organized and predictable experience. If you have a chaotic web design, it makes people confused and pushes them to leave your site. With symmetry, you can provide users a predictable experience when it comes to your website’s usability.

Symmetry, like similarity, can also help your business attract people to specific features of your site, like a call-to-action (CTA) button. You can make your CTA button asymmetrical, for instance, to pull a user (and their eyes) to that button.

5.     Common Fate

Common fate describes the assumed relation between elements moving in the same direction. When it comes to static or immobile elements or elements moving in different directions, we often assume they’re unrelated.

This Gestalt principle of design influences web design in a significant way.

An example of the gestalt design principle common fate

A website that features interactive features will often use common fate to convey the relationship between elements. For example, if you have an expandable menu, it’s essential for those elements to move together to showcase their connection. Tool-tips are another excellent example of common fate.

6.     Continuity

Continuity refers to the predicted relationship between elements in a line or curved line. In comparison, elements connected by a harsh line, like an “x,” can appear disconnected. The same applies to lines connected haphazardly.

Like all the other Gestalt design principles, continuity also serves a critical role in web design.

An example of the gestalt design principle continuity

With continuity, you make it easier for users to explore and navigate your website. A blog, for example, can feature organized rows and columns for posts, which provides readers with continuity. You can apply the same concept to menus, image carousels, and more.

7.     Good Gestalt

Good Gestalt explains the tendency of people to reorganize complex elements into simpler forms. For example, if presented with a component featuring a pentagon, rectangle, and circle, you will probably look at those shapes as one object, rather than three.

This Gestalt principle of design provides an essential guide to web design.

An example of the gestalt design principle good gestalt

Your website needs to focus on simplicity, rather than complexity to succeed. If you push your agency to create a complicated, yet unique design, you risk alienating browsers. People on your website will also work against the design anyway, breaking it down to a simpler form.

8.     Past Experience

Past experience describes how people categorize and interpret elements based on past experience. A user in the U.S., for example, may tie circular red, yellow, and green elements together due to traffic lights in the U.S.

Your web design agency can also apply past experience to web design.

An example of the gestalt design principle past experience

A website with an international audience, for example, may emphasize the use and proximity of specific shapes and colors. This attention to detail is critical for companies looking to expand into a new market, especially one with a different culture from your current market.

Find Gestalt Principles in Your Web Design

Now that you know about the eight Gestalt principles of design, your team can start browsing and finding instances in your website. Or, you can start looking at the top web design agencies to discover one that can leverage the Gestalt principles in your favor.

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