Contextual Studies


“The whole is other than the sum of the parts” – Kurt Koffka

Physically perceiving things and how our brains and eyes work by looking for things to relate to. Gestalt has come from phycology and a quote that it has been related to wis “Everything in its right place”


The whole is identified before the parts and looking for the elements within. For example in a crowd you would need to emerge yourself in the idea and visual idea of the crowd before you would register that you have a friend in the crowd.


Our mind fills in the gaps. The best example of this is a horror film that doesn’t show the murder happen. If you were to use this in advertising you can lead your audience to their own conclusion.


The mind seeks to avoid uncertainty and always looks for familiarity and the mind is constantly try to make sense of any situation. The mind can also tries to make sense of illusions within this picture your mind would try to figure out what it is and that can either be a young or an old woman. Different people would have different reactions for it.



We’re good at recognising similarities and difference, it is human nature to be looking for change. Looking for change could be environmental, political or just in a playful way such as this spot the difference. How many can you find?


Laws of Gestalt.

  • Figure and Ground

You can have a plain sheet of paper, then you’d perceive the paper, when you make a mark on the paper the focus is then shifted to the mark like below.



  • Law of simplicity

The mind will always go for the simplest solution and your mind will ask itself if it has seen something like that before so it can make a connection to it.


  • Law of Closure

We don’t like to know what’s happening and hate open ended questions. A cliffhanger will always grab attention because people will naturally want to know what happens. In design this can be used via negative space.


  • Law of proximity

This describes how close things are to each other. If things are close to each other we make a connection and describe them as groups.


  • Law of similarity

Similarity is to describe things we have already known and then you can challenge this by changing one thing about it.


  • Law of parallelism

If things are parallel they are perceived to be heading in the same direction, this can be seen as a group.


  • Law of continuation

Even though shapes and images might not have a defined end you can still follow them. This comes from the human nature of wanting to move forwards.


  • Law of common fate

Looking for order in the way things move.


How can this be used?

Focal point.

Within a piece of work you need to have something to draw people in, a focal point. Once you have a good focal point it’ll draw people in to viewing the entire thing.


Past experience

Understanding the audience is one of the most important aspects of advertising and designing for the public. Having an understanding of what they like to see and what is familiar to them will stop them from being put off. Change scares people.



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