Gestalt theory and art III

Posted: May 26, 2014 in Art of Photography

Grouping is a major element in Gestalt and can be influences the visual center of an image.

The different types of grouping are: proximity, similarity, continuity, closure and pragnanz. Each is discussed below.

This topic of Gestalt may seem overly simplistic, but it explains the actions of the unconscious mind during the act of viewing and it will become clear how it supports the principles of art and Elements of Design.

Proximity:-The principle of proximity or contiguity states that things which are closer together will be seen as belonging together. 

Looking below you will see how a grid of evenly spaced objects is nothing more than a grid of evenly spaced objects. It has balance and logic. Therefore, it is comfortable to the brains and the eyes can rest on it easily.


In the second image below, we still have an image of similar objects, though of the same shape. but brain considers them as belonging to different groups. Can you explain why? There is still a balance in the logic; it is just a bit more complex.


Proximity also works for dissimilar groups of objects, as shown below.


Proximity of shapes affects the visual relationships of shapes within a frame, but the illustration may be a bit too simplistic.

We now see 3 shapes of blue and 1 shape of grey.  When we consider the whole page, all shapes may appear as one single group. but when we consider them separately, the square is grouped with the 2 overlapping blue shapes. The single blue shape on the upper left is likely grouped with nothing.  This changes their reference and logic, so the brain may see them in either light.


Having too many things in close proximity can affect the  image negatively. This leads to incoherence, not allowing for the eyes to find a comfortable point of focus.

Grouping of this sort can be achieved with:

  • Tone / value
  • Color
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Or other physical attributes


  • Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam demonstrates the expressive power of proximity. The hands appear to be touching, although they are not when closely observed
  • Areas of use:Well, it is pretty easy.If want two, or more, objects to be conceived as a group, then place them close to each other. The human mind does the finishing work for you; grouping them. Remember the constellation of stars (big bear) , we name them as we perceive them as one group due to proximity in a sea of stars of similar shape and size

    For instance; if you have a dominant visual element, and a logo that you want perceived as being one unit, then place them close to each other. If you have a text, and you desire to link themes, then one of the ways you can do that, is by grouping the themes in the text (all others things being equal).

    Proximity is one of the principles often used in the field of web design because it allows for organized layouts to be created, with just enough white space to guarantee the desired visual perception.

    Can you identify the principle of proximity in the following images

    And you can play around with the proximity factor. Use it straight forward for straight grouping, or once you have established the group, then play around with it for different effects.

Some of my picture in which you can see the principle of proximity.

In the first picture although pitcher and sprinkler are two different things but just being close to each other, they are perceived as belonging to one group

2337844_orig (1)

In the following picture, boy and girl sitting together appear to belong to one group


Using Gestalt principle of proximity, decide which would work as a smiley



And finally use of Gestalt principle in designing from Lexi


  1. The picture of the boy and girl is simply incredible. All of your photographs speak a 1000 words. On the google + page, I particularly enjoy the quote associated with the image creating a stronger impact when appreciating the photograph.

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