Posted by: kenwbudd | January 28, 2010

Gestalt and Design

What is Gestalt?
When human beings look at a painting or a web page or any complex combination of elements, we see the whole before we see the individual parts that make up that whole. This idea of seeing the whole before the parts and even more the whole becoming more than the sum of its parts is Gestalt.

The German word gestalt can be translated as “shape” or “form” and the term refers to how visual input is perceived by human beings. Gestalt psychology was founded by Max Wertheimer and has been added to over the years by other authors.

Wertheimer’s original observation was that we perceive motion when there is nothing more than a rapid sequence of individual sensory events such as a series of lights flashing in sequence. Imagine a string of Christmas lights. Each light turns on and off in sequence along the string. We see the movement of light from one end of the string to the other, when in reality nothing has moved.

We see something that’s not really there and Wertheimer’s explanation is that we see the effect of the whole event that is not necessarily contained in the sum of the parts.

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