we navigate the world through clumping data

“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” — Kurt Koffka

Important theories in understanding spatial relationships conceptually and perceptually = Gestalt Theory + Conceptual Metaphor Theory.

Key terms swiped from Steven Bradley’s Design Principles: Visual Perception And The Principles Of Gestalt. Great pics; click link.


  • emergence – the whole is identified before the parts.
  • reification – our mind fills in the gaps
  • multi-stability – the mind seeks to avoid uncertainty
  • invariance – we are great at recognizing similarity and differenceBummed from Lupton
    hen again ???scale
  • lazy (efficient) – the mind will attempt to reduce the overwhelming data in a given field in order to more effectively process it

Practicalities / Principles

  • closure – we tend to look for a single, recognizable pattern, by combining multiple items.

  • figure / ground – elements are either resolved as items of focus or dissolve into background.
  • proximity + uniform connectedness – patterns in distance or connecting feature are distinguished as units.
  • continuance + common fate – elements arranged on an implied line or curve suggest a continuation (common fate assumes that items moving in the same direction will incur a like consequence)
  • similarity – a likeness in color, shape, scale, orientation, relationships, etc are perceived as related.
  • symmetry – registers as stable (symmetrical) or unstable (unsymmetrical)

    Bummed from Lupton

  • difference + focal point – the eye is drawn to areas of contrastpeeing-difference        difference-color


  • experience – items are understood in relationship to past experiences, i.e. gravity, stop light, the upward turned lips, etc.experience

Can you identify the different properties and principles harnessed in the five compositions below by Alicia Lott.


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