gestalt psychology The following is an excerpt from Layout: the design of the printed page by Allen Hurlburt. In 1912, Max Wertheimer published a paper on perception that is generally credited as the beginning of Gestalt psychology. The German word “Gestalt” does not translate easily into English. “Form” and “shape”are the usual synonyms, but the word generally implies a configuration of many elements to form a unified whole as in the creative design of a layout. Wertheimer’s principles of perceptual organization demonstrate how the eye tends to group units within the field of vision into wholes. This approach established vision as a cre-ative experience-not simply an act of seeing. It is our ability to gather and group visual patterns, to view units col-lectively, that permits us to accept the printed page as a total unit. It is this phenomenon of perception that creates the need for design solu-tions that bring together all the elements in a total concept. The Gestalt principles not only explain how we combine sensory data to form objects, but they also hint at why we accept the illusion of tone created by halftone dots, the simplified form of cartoon art, the mean-ing of symbols, and the intrigue of abstraction. The Gestalt studies of vision also suggest why we are sometimes able to see images that don’t exist–like the man in the moon–images in a moving cloud pat-tern, or images in the Rorshach blot familiar in psychological testing. In exploring the visual effects of an object under varying intensities of light, the Gestalt scientists discovered and explained the phe-nomenon of value contrast. They established that an object of con-stant value will appear darker on a light background and lighter on
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course ME 20 at San Jose State.