Design Principles 101: Leveraging Visual Perception

Web Design“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” This quote from Kurt Koffka provides a key insight into how people perceive design. A person identifies a group of objects in its entirety first before he or she sees its smaller parts. People see the whole as more than its individual pieces, even when they are separate elements. This is the idea behind the Gestalt Theory, which is a principle that many designers follow.

Here are some of the ideas that help you implement the Gestalt concept:


An expert in web design cites that this concept is the process of creating complex patterns using simple rules. When a person wants to identify something, they seek to determine its outline first. They then match the latter against certain objects that they are already familiar with. When designing a website, a visitor will realize elements by the general form they take. The simpler the design of your site is the easier it is to communicate it faster compared to using a detailed one with difficult to perceive contours.

Filling the Gaps

Reification is a concept of perception that allows the brain to fill in gaps in the design. This aspect perceives more spatial information in an object compared to its actual counterpart. As a person tries to match something they see with familiar patterns they know by memory, they often fail to identify an exact one. So what happens is that a viewer will try to find the closest possible pattern to fill the gaps of what they think they should see.

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Avoiding Uncertainty

This concept, multi-stability, is the tendency of one to move back and forth between different interpretations of what they see unstably. When one looks at an object, you can interpret it in various ways. However, once you begin to focus on one perception, this becomes your dominant one, making it difficult to see the other.

From the perspective of web design, if you want to change a visitor’s point of view, avoid doing so all at once. Provide them with an alternative then strengthen it while weakening the other one.

These concepts of design allow you to improve the look of your website and its ability to convey your brand’s message.