How Close…Gestalt Law of Closure [Die Gestalt im Design]

Human eye can connect information, what is there is enough to make a complete image out of what is present.

Recently we initiated a series of posts covering the theme of theoretical application of Gestalt psychology in web design. We’ve already described five principles: Symmetry, Similarity, Proximity, Common Fate and Continuity. This article is dedicated to the sixth principle in the Gestalt theory of Pragnanz – Law of Closure.

The Law of Closure is one of the most illustrious Gestalt theories and it says that elements are grouped together if they belong to a figure that is closed. Putting simply – we fill in the gaps. For example, in the image to the left, there are no triangles or circles, still our minds fill in the missing information to create familiar shapes and images.

The Law of Closure is all about “drawing conclusions” and filling in missing pieces. That is why designers want to leave the drawing conclusions part to the audience this makes content presentation more interesting and engaging. Overall effectiveness of Closure depends on the amount of visual clues given to users. Web designers need to be strategic in deciding what information is essential and what is best to be left out. To achieve the balance between giving too much information and not enough, that is the sense of Closure. If too much info is given, users will get bored because all the work is practically done, no need to apply imagination. But, if you don’t give enough information, users will not know what conclusions to make and this will result in frustration only. This is why it’s highly important to understand what Closure really is and how to use it without even realizing it.

Let’s consider one of the brightest examples – logo designs. We meet various logos all the time and everywhere, but generally we do not pay attention to the way how they are drawn. We decided to take some of the most widely know logo designs to visualize how the Law of Closure works. Imagine logos that are created from horizontal lines, still our minds perceive dotted/lined/striped logos as a complete image but not as separate elements:

The IBM logo is created of horizontal lines though we perceive it as a complete image, but not as a set of diverse lines:

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No need to draw additional lines in the WWF Logo to see the whole image of panda:


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On both logos, shapes are placed near one another, but, as you can see, none of the shapes actually touch, this causes us to think a bow-tie or a peacock is present (someone can see some other image, because image perception depends on the perception of an individual), with the Playboy bunny everything is much easier:

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The Law of Closure is the way for us to make sense of our surroundings by taking a group of individual items and forming a single pattern or entity. For example, why can you recognize a friend from across the street, even if he/she has sunglasses on? Closure makes this possible – as long as you can see the majority of your friend’s distinctive features like hair, face shape – your mind fills in the missing details, still you don’t even realize it.

In web design the Law of Closure makes users highly involved into the interaction with design elements, the most common way is to let users complete an image, form or an idea as it was described in the logos above.

Using this brain’s ability to complete unfinished forms or subjects Gestalt Law of Closure found its way in the layout of numerous websites. Lets have a look at TemplateMonster’s templates given below, we’ve picked a set that visualizes the Law of Closure in various visual elements of these designs.

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Facebook Business Website Template

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Charity Web Templates

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Flash Music Web Templates

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Silverlight Web Design Web Templates

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Flash Web Design Web Templates

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Facebook Flash Web Design Web Templates

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Web Design After Effects Logo Reveals

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Flash Website Web Templates

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Flash Business Web Templates

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Joomla Business Web Templates

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Facebook Flash Art & Photography Web Templates

Mastering this Gestalt law can bring your designer skills to the new level. Closure is prevalent in art, by providing just the right amount of information, your users will “catch” the image and feel that they have a role in the design process. Closure, as a tool, creates a sense of unity in the image. Generally, this is an illusion, but the success of the design is purely dependent on the results of this effect. In return, these results form our opinions, assumptions and understanding of the reality.

Speaking so much about the Gestalt laws we have some questions left. How do you think, our perceptions are real or fixed gestalts? And more importantly, what we can do to create awareness around perception formation? Feel free to express your opinion in the comments section.

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