A Gestalt point of view

During my junior year of college I was required to enroll in a cinematography course as part of the Electronic Arts program. The first day of class we received a typical syllabus and course schedule. Then we immediately dove into a topic that I still remember to this day, Gestalt psychology.

In its basic form, Gestalt tries to explain how we perceive more than the collected sum. Musical tunes can be recognized in different keys or with added notes. Instead of seeing individual leafs on a tree we see branches, birds, sky, and grass. Foreground and background blend together to create a complete picture. “… although a wheel is made of 30 spokes, it is the space between the spokes that determines the overall form.” – Tao Te Ching

Designers juggle their time between foreground and background elements with the hopes of ensuring a harmony between the two. If one is neglected the design can easily fail; becoming more aware of this can help produce a more desirable composition.

One of the last remaining original Gestalt psychologists, Rudolf Arnheim, recently referred to the decline of modern design as, “unbrilled extravagance, a vulgarity of taste, and triviality of thought.” I see a lot of evidence supporting this statement on a daily basis. My conscious tells me design should be timeless. Instead of spending hours trying to determine the new fad we should be researching the psychological effects of design and closely study the masters. This is the path I’ve decided to try for now.

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