[VIDEO+BLOG] What is Gestalt Psychology & What Does It Have to do with Slide Design? - GESTALT SERIES #1


Before you read this post >>

This is actually the written version of my YouTube video. Watch it instead here >>


Are you ready to improve your presentation skills? Curious about the course I mentioned in the video?

It’s free and it’s called Countdown to Stellar Slides.


Take a look at the two pictures below.

How many trees do you see in the picture on the left. What about the one on the right? 


I’m guessing that in the first image you saw individual trees, but then when I panned over, all of a sudden you saw an entire forest.

Why is that? I mean, I was literally standing in the same exact spot, just looking in a different place. What’s happening in our minds that makes us switch...and what does that have to do with presentation design?

Every single day, you encounter millions of stimuli and images that your brain has to sort through.

If our brain spent its energy looking at and processing every single little bit of data -- and we were aware of it and had to think it -- life would be unbearable!

Take a look at the image below ... and imagine if our brains had to count every single blade of grass to process that information! 


Luckily, that isn't what our brains do. Instead, our brains look at that image and process "field of grass," which takes waaaay less energy. 

But why?

Gestalt Psychology, that's why.

One reason is researched in the field of Gestalt Psychology, which roots back to at least the late 1800s, human brains like to group things, and sometimes does this automatically.

According to wikipedia: (Don't judge. I had to sell back a lot of my textbooks, OK).

“The fundamental principle of gestalt perception is the law of prägnanz (which means "pithy" in German), which says that we tend to order our experience in a manner that is regular, orderly, symmetrical, and simple.”


In other words, our brain prefers to simplify objects so that we see the whole or outline of something before we see all the individual little parts.

Thanks, Brain! You're pretty cool :) 


And apparently, there are a lot of rules that guide our brains to let them know what to group together and what to separate.

Rules to help guide our brain on knowing what to focus on, what order to go in, and what to ignore.

I’ve also heard some people refer to it as Perceptual Organization. And I kinda like that. Because that’s really what it’s about: it’s about how our brains organize information that we see.


Back when I was an early psychology student (I have a PhD in Community Psych), I remember learning about visual perception and Gestalt psychology over and over again, and I used to think it was the most boring part of psychology. That’s because we didn’t really learn how to apply this information in real life. It wasn’t until later that I realized we can use these rules to make stellar slides...

Which means now it has my FULL ATTENTION.... AttentionLevel: CATTLE DOG


(Herding dog parents: I know you get me)

Over the last few years, I’ve learned that when I use these rules to their fullest potential, learning became easier and more fun for my audience.

That matters because presentations that are easy to follow along with are more likely to be remembered and used later on.

Which is the whole point of a presentation, right? To get our students, peers, colleagues, or community to actually understand, remember, and use what we say.

But we don’t have to reinvent coffee to get there ;) Gestalt psychology and other visual perception principles give us ideas for how we can use all kinds of things to actually make that happen. Things like:

  • Tone and value

  • Color

  • Shape

  • Size

  • Placement

  • Motion

  • Boldness and contrast


That's why I’m going to do a whole series about my favorite Gestalt or other visual perception principles that I use to create effective, professional presentations.

This is just the intro video/post so I could explain the basics behind these principles, where they come from, and why I’m creating a series about them.

For each future video, I’ll explain one of the principles, then show you how to apply that when designing your slides.

Thanks for reading!

with joy,
Dr. Echo Rivera