Explain why the Gestalt works, or why it doesn't work in ANTONIO CANOVA, Pauline Borghese as Venus, 1808.


Gestalt is a German word meaning form. The integration of the various parts is called the Gestalt. Basically it is a group of seemingly incongruous pieces/parts that are brought together by the artist to create/complete a whole new thought or concept. Various types of arts use the Gestalt such as dance. Imagine what chaos would ensue without a choreographer, set designer, stage crew and costume designer, all working under the direction of a lead person with a vision–the one who has planned the Gestalt or form of the performance. Imagine a music performance without a musical score and conductor, or at the very least, sheet or memorized music.

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Gestalt puts the visual artist or designer in control of what he wants the viewer to see.  Five concepts of Gestalt Theory are closure, continuance, similarity, proximity and alignment. (2D Design Notes, 2000)

Consider all of the elements and principles of art/design. Think about an example in graphic design such as an advertisement in a fashion magazine: You have type, photos, illustrations, a logo and elements such as color, line, texture, space (positive/negative), values(dark/light), proportion/size. Then there is composition to consider.


The artist makes selections dealing with all aspects: Which colors will work best with the photos, which colors will support the intended message best, which textural elements will help blend the entire composition together, how should each item be sized, where should they be placed within the space, which type style will work best?


There is more to this for the professional artist or designer, but to briefly summarize, in art and design all of the parts are brought together to create a congruous whole–a new presentation that viewers can receive–and hopefully respond to according to the designer/artist’s intention (gestalt). In the case of the magazine ad, the intended outcome is to show the product to its best advantage in a way the human brain can quickly relate to and grasp.


Consider the elements and principles (formal qualities) as applied to the art or design you observe. Does the Gestalt work? Is it successful? Do you get the message?


These are the basic rules to art and design that are studied and learned either in art classes or by observing the masters.

Artists and designers at the Bauhaus (http://www.designhistory.org/Bauhaus3.html) adopted gestalt and used it for their purposes.

SEE THIS SITE: http://daphne.palomar.edu/design/gestalt.html (2D Design Notes, 2000)

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