Gestalt Principles

The Gestalt Principles are a set of theories that describe how humans perceive and interpret visual information. They were developed by German psychologists in the early 20th century.

Gestalt principles guide how people visually perceive the world including digital interfaces. Specifically, these principles explain how people decide whether several individual elements are part of the same group and, thus, are related in some way. This knowledge helps them understand and interact with the world in general, and also applies to controls and content on screens.

The original set of Gestalt principles was discovered in the first half of the twentieth century and includes proximity, similarity, and closure. Later research at the end of the twentieth century added a few more grouping principles to the list discovered initially by the Gestalt psychologists. Among these, perhaps the most relevant for UX is that of common region.

These principles are now commonly referred to as Gestalt laws or the Gestalt principles. The most popular principles include proximity, similarity, common regions, and closure. As designers, we can apply these principles to create usable interfaces.


Closure is the tendency of our minds to complete incomplete shapes or patterns. Even when there are gaps or missing parts, we often "close" them in our perception to see a whole, unified object.

Common Fate (Synchrony)

Common fate is the idea that objects moving in the same direction or following a similar path are perceived as part of a group. It's as if they share a common purpose or destiny.

Common Region

Common region is the principle of grouping elements based on the boundaries or borders that separate them. Objects contained within the same region are seen as belonging together, while those in different regions are perceived as separate.


This principle refers to the perception of objects that are physically connected or linked in some way. When elements are joined by lines, paths, or other connections, we see them as related.


Continuation is about our tendency to see a continuous line or path even when it's interrupted by other objects. Our minds naturally follow a line or shape and continue it beyond obstacles.


This principle involves distinguishing between an object (the "figure") and its background (the "ground"). Our brains automatically separate objects from their surroundings to make sense of what we see.

Focal Points

Elements with a point of interest, emphasis or difference will capture and hold the viewer’s attention.


Elements that are parallel to each other are seen as more related than elements not parallel to each other.

Past Experiences

Elements tend to be perceived according to an observer's past experience.


Proximity is all about how close things are to each other. When objects are near one another, we perceive them as related or forming a group. The closer they are, the stronger this connection appears.


People will perceive and interpret ambiguous or complex images as the simplest form possible, because it is the interpretation that requires the least cognitive effort of us.


The principle of similarity is about things that look alike. When objects share similar characteristics, like color, shape, or size, our brains tend to group them together, seeing them as part of the same set or category.

Symmetry (And Order)

The Principle of Symmetry emphasises creating a balanced and harmonious visual and functional experience.

Uniform Connectedness

Elements that are visually connected are perceived as more related than elements with no connection.

Last updated