Gestalt Theory and eLearning; organizing information by laws of perception

Today, we want to share a bit about Gestalt Theory, which helps us understand how visual information is sorted. This theory is important to Roundtable Learning’s instructional and graphic designers because almost everything we create has a visual component. More importantly, everything we create needs to impact learners on a performance level. Here are a few things to keep in mind when applying Gestalt Theory to eLearning.

The Basics

Gestalt theory was conceived by German Psychologists in the early 1920’s. The theory deals with how visual information is perceived and organized by the human brain. When designing eLearning, the principles of Gestalt Theory can be used to align visual information in a way that:

1. Reduces cognitive load or processing time to make sense of the information presented

2. Makes design seem more intuitive to the user/learner

The long and short of it!

When employed, Gestalt Theories will absolutely make it easier for your learner to learn, every single time.

11 Important Principles

1. Law of balance/symmetry – The tendency of an object to appear incomplete if it is not balanced or symmetrical.

2. Law of continuation – The user’s instinct to follow a direction derived from visual cues.

3. Law of Closure – Open shapes give the user a sense of incompletion.

4. Law of figure-ground – The tendency of the user to perceive a background and a foreground to visual information.

5. Law of focal point – The tendency of the user’s eye to be drawn first to a specific part of a layout.

6. Law of isomorphic correspondence – The tendency of the user to assign meaning to objects based on experiences.

7. Law of good form – The tendency of the user to organize visual information into as good a form as possible.

8. Law of proximity – Items placed near each other will be organized into a group.

9. Law of similarity – Items like each other in shape or color will be organized into a group.

10. Law of simplicity – The user will unconsciously try to simplify what is seen into what can be understood.

11. Law of unity/ harmony – The user will look for consistency in the elements of the design if the viewer does not find this consistency it will lead to confusion.

Employing the principles – things to keep in mind:

Not every law is going to be employed in every on-screen layout at the same time. It really depends on the elements being used in the layout. But a whole eLearning multiple-page course can benefit from applying all eleven principles. The best thing you can do for your learner is to keep your design uncomplicated but intuitive. The best way to make designs seem intuitive is to use these principles of perception.

If you’re interested in a consultative approach to instructional and graphic design, or a complete learning solution that addresses your learners’ needs and closes performance gaps, call us or schedule a demo.