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I've seen the Gestalt principles or laws referenced often when it comes to graphic design and even UI and UX.

Is there some definitive guide, book or original research about this subject that I can read more about?

I'm highly fascinated by the subject and mostly interested in who started researching about the Gestalt principles. I've tried to find the original research source while I was a student at the university but had no luck (considering it dates back to 1920's).

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According to the Wikipedia page on Gestalt psychology, Christian von Ehrenfels introduced the concept in his work Über Gestaltqualitäten (On the Qualities of Form, 1890). That appears to be the original published work on Gestalt as a concept in psychology.

It might be worth following the Gestalt psychology topic on Quora to see if some interesting questions/answers are posted. You could even ask the same question there!

Jin also mentioned this summary of the Gestalt principles in his answer to What effect would a grayscale color scheme have on UX?

Hope that helps.

5

I would imagine that most introductory psychology texts would touch on the gestalt principles. Two useful books that I have that cover them quite well are:

Visual Thinking for Design by Colin Ware

Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few

The first focuses more on underlying principles of visual perception, the second is much more applied. Both have a more broad coverage than just the gestalt principles, but are handy books. And of course there is always the Wikipedia entry on Gestalt principles.

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Gestalt Laws are most often referenced as a basis for what we know about how humans visually perceive the organization of things, or perceptual proximity.

Some known ways that perceptual proximity can be achieved are,

  1. Spatial proximity - things closer together will be perceived as a group.
  2. Similarity - things that are similar in size, shape, or color are perceived to be in a group.
  3. Connectedness - things that are aligned or linked together appear to be in a group.
  4. Closure - our minds fill in missing information to create a whole. So, things will appear to be grouped if they create an object.

You will not find a definitive book because as @Rahul and @Splog have pointed out, Gestalt psychology is more of a branch of thought.

There's a nice online summary of Gestalt Principles at Scholarpedia.

If you would like to learn more, pick up a copy of Engineering Psychology and Human Performance. Chapter 3 on Attention in Perception and Display Space and Chapter 4 on Spatial Displays will give you a thorough overview of the theories behind visual perception.

  • It's not visual, you get the same effects with auditory. I'd argue that the various effects are just results of the underlying way that the brain handles data. The Gestalt principles are specific examples of a much more general effect. – PhillipW May 19 '11 at 8:52
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    That's a good point, @PhillipW. Although, it seems when one talks about "Gestalt Principles" or "Gestalt Laws" within graphic design, they are referring to visual perception. – ashley May 19 '11 at 14:26
  • Sorry that should be: It's not ONLY visual, etc – PhillipW May 22 '11 at 21:01
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There are some papers from early researchers on Gestalt theory at Classics in the History of Psychology. Especially the Wertheimer paper is quite an easy read (was already translated from German in '38) and contains a couple of nice informative pictures.

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