Logo Design and Gestalt Psychology [Concepts and Examples]

Gestalt is one of the most important concepts for understanding logo theory and psychology.

In this post, I cover in detail:

  • The role of gestalt in logo design
  • 5 fundamental concepts of logo design psychology with useful images
  • Examples of logos using gestalt psychology principles
  • The main principles of logo design
  • Gestalt logo design infographic (feel free to use)

By the end of this post, you will understand the following logo psychology concepts:

  1. Closure
  2. Figure / Ground
  3. Continuity
  4. Unity
  5. Balance

First, I define logo psychology.

Then, I explain the concept of gestalt in logo design.

Next, I discuss the main principles used in logo design with useful examples.

Let’s dive right in.

Psychology and Gestalt in Logo Design

In psychology, the term gestalt (which in German means something like “unified whole”) describes humans’ capacity for “cumulative perception”. 

Basically, it refers to our tendency to “fill in the gaps” in everything we see, so to speak.  

As humans, we are unable to analyze every single piece of information that is presented to us. 

Instead, we tend to process our surroundings by using preconceptions, biases, and stereotypes that allow us to make decisions quickly. 

In other words:

This ability allows us to see “wholeness” in the things we perceive. This is especially true for how we perceive messages and visual information.  

You might ask:

How does the concept of gestalt apply to logo design? 

In the 1920s, the Bauhaus art school coined the term gestalt to explain visual perception in design.

According to this school, “a design’s unity is more than the simple addition of its parts.”

When we perceive a logo, we “fill in the gaps” not only in terms of what we literally see but also in terms of what those elements represent.  

If a logo has a cursive font, our brains will associate what we see with elegance.  If it features bright red, we will associate it with urgency or boldness.  

In short:

We “read” a logo’s visual representation in order to derive meaning from it.  

By understanding the role of gestalt in perception, with are able to create logos that interact with people’s expectations, knowledge, and attitudes.

This results in logos that are interesting, memorable, and relevant.  

But:

What does gestalt look like in logo design?

You can learn more about the concept of gestalt in this detailed post about graphic design principles.

Let’s now look at the 5 main concepts behind gestalt theory.

Gestalt-Logo-Psychology-Infographic

5 Main Concepts in Gestalt Theory

1. Closure 

closure-principle-logo-psychology-examples

The concept of closure in logo design theory is closely related to gestalt.  

A logo is not an illustration or a painting. It’s a visual summary of a brand’s identity or essence.  

This means that logos have to communicate iconically.

In other words:

A logo has to be able to communicate with minimal elements.

Therefore, a logo has to accomplish a lot with very few resources. 

Through closure, a logo is able to communicate by suggesting ideas or concepts with only a few elements (such as an icon, color, shapes, or typography). 

Through the Gestalt principle of closure we are able to “fill in the blanks” of missing information in order to create wholeness.

In sum: 

Closure allows the viewer to complete unfinished forms or ideas.

As Alex White states in his excellent book, closure “encourages active participation in the creation of the message.” 

2. Figure/Ground 

Figure/Ground-principle-logo-psychology-examples

Another way in which a viewer applies wholeness or totality relates to the concept of figure / ground.  

Figure/Ground describes our capacity to perceive the relationship between form (shape) and its surrounding space.  

In other words:

Our sense of wholeness or unity depends on how we perceive the relationship between an object and the space in which it is contained. 

By strategically playing with this relationship, a designer can create interest, memorability, or meaning in a logo.  

What creates the letter “e”, is it the white space or is it its positive enclosure (black space)? Figure/Ground relates to our capacity to switch from background to foreground to create wholeness.

3. Continuity

Continuity-principle-logo-psychology-examples

In our desire for wholeness, we’re also able to follow the logical direction of visual forms, even if they’re not on a page or design.

This is called continuity.  

Let me give you an example:

If you encounter a sign that says “Exit” with an arrow pointing to the right, Where do you look?

Your perception logically makes you “follow” whatever goes beyond that arrow.  

The "Exit"sign exemplifies the principle of continuity in logo design.

That is: 

Through continuity, we are able to view the “wholeness” of a design even if not all of its elements are depicted right there on the page.  

In this example, the “direction” of the lines in the pencil and its tip allow us to keep looking in that direction, even beyond the boundaries of the design. This is called continuity.

4. Unity

unity-principle-logo-psychology-examples

We also search for wholeness by applying the principle of unity.  

In graphic design, unity refers to our capacity to group different things or find kinship between them, even if they are not the same size, color, or shape.

Through unity, we are able to mentally organize elements and establish relationships between them in spite of their diversity.  

Unity manifests itself in the following ways:

  • Proximity:
    • We perceive objects or elements that are close to one another as more unified than those that are farther apart.
  • Repetition:
    • Objects that are repeated in a composition are perceived as more unified.
  • Similarity:
    • Objects or elements that are similar in color, shape, texture or form appear to be more unified than those that are not.
Through unity, we are able to group and organize visual elements, even if they are not the same.

5. Balance

Balance-principle-logo-psychology-examples

Balance refers to the total symmetry of a composition.

That is:

When we look at a design, we evaluate its total appearance in terms of the harmony of all of its elements.

The question is:

How are the elements of the composition weighted in relation to one another?

Balance manifests itself in at least two ways:

  • Symmetrical Balance
    • All the elements of the composition are distributed equally.
    • Elements of the same category or form having the same rank or importance.
    • The focus of the composition is in its center.
  • Asymmetrical Balance
    • The elements of the composition are not necessarily distributed equally, but their placement on the page results in harmony (they make visual sense).
    • The focus of the composition is not necessarily its center.
Balance as logo design principle can be symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Apply Logo Theory to Your Designs Right Now

Logo theory and principles are the foundation of a solid logo creation process. 

With a general understanding of how a logo works, you will be able to achieve effective results that are repeatable and consistent.  

Even more:

Understanding the main principles behind the logo process will guide you in creating logos that are distinctive, memorable, and timeless. 

Study these principles and see how they apply to the logos that we see everyday. 

Inkscape Vector Logo Tutorial

Powell Peralta Logo Vector Tutorial

About the Author:

Ruben Ramirez teaches Digital Media at the University of Puerto Rico and started Self-Made Designer for his students. He likes skateboards, guitars, and vector graphics.

Follow on Instagram: @iconocracia

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