Jan 29

Visual Perception and Design

When I’ve tried to help new web designers grasp the basics of how gestalt theory can inform design, I’ve pointed them to a few web pages here and there. For example these “design notes” from Palomar College list the five principles but it doesn’t do much to tie it into designing for the web. “Gestalt Theory,” a paper that explains its implications for the learning process is interesting but there are no illustrations, though, which is a shame.

Perhaps there are some good books out there that really show in detail how to apply these principles to web design, but I’m unaware of them. This review by Terrance Brooks made me want to seek out a copy of the book he’s discussing, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Besides, I’m often sending some helpful suggestions via email and the recipient is far more likely to visit a freely available web page unless she is especially motivated. In that case, there is a great “Visual Literacy Bibliography” that includes a good list of resources for the “psychology of art” including Gestalt perception. However, most (if not all) the resources listed were published pre-web so they don’t discuss it in terms of designing for an interactive medium.

So, I was really pleased to see such an excellent article with great illustrations on the topic appear in Boxes & Arrows last week. “Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization” by Luke Wroblewski is the perfect concise discussion with an all important “putting it to use” conclusion. I’m sure I’ll be pointing people to this piece for years to come.

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