using gestalt principles

Our first experiment was to use black squares to create thumbnails based on the words order, tension, congestion, playfulness, and comfort.

Phase 1: Initial ideation

The approach I ended up taking for each word was to create a mindmap using different definitions.

My first 25 thumbnails were done with marker on paper.


1: The large square is ordering the smaller squares (looking up at it) to do something.

2: The squares are ordered in a pattern.

3: The squares are arranged in ascending order.

4: The squares have been ordered into categories based on size.

5: The small squares are arranged around a larger square, listening to orders.


1: Unrest (tension) is being created, because it is uncertain whether the small square can support the larger one.

2: There is tension as the square on top is on the edge.

3: There is tension as the square has to balance on a single point.

4: In physics, tension is created when two forces work to elongate a part by pulling in different directions. I tried to show a square being pulled by two chain links here.

5: Using the definition of tension as fear, I made this square hide at the bottom of the canvas.


1: I thought the two squares close to each other would imply congestion through limited space.

2: The smaller square is blocked by the larger square, which is creating congestion.

3: This thumbnail is also using the lack of space to show congestion.

4: The squares are moving from the top right only to cluster and become congested in the bottom left.

5: The square is being squeezed (congested) by the two large squares on the sides.


1: I wanted the squares to be playing a game, like tag; they’re playfully running after each other.

2: Here, I tried to imply playfulness through a die pattern.

3: The smaller square is being playful by hiding behind the larger one.

4: I tried to show playfulness using a hopscotch pattern.

5: The squares are overlapping, almost like they’d all thrown themselves on top of each other playfully.


1: The two squares are connected to each other, almost like they’re holding hands to comfort the other.

2: The square is protected by a shelter (sense of comfort).

3: One square is leaning on the other for comfort.

4: Two squares make a house icon, representing the comfort of being home.

5: The squares form the comfort of a family.

Phase 2: Refining on illustrator

After a feedback session with Sanchez and Hannah, I was able to narrow down which concepts to work on more.


Feedback: for my second order thumbnail, someone suggested that I try and create some sort of order within order; I decided I would redo it to show the different squares in each category to be stacked up to create overall squares of the same size, thus giving the arrangement more intentionality.


Feedback: I feel like a consistent feature of all of my tension pieces was to have things only slightly off center or out of balance; for my first tension piece, I adjusted the smaller square “links” so that one side would appear to be pulled with more force. My second tension piece has a square tilted a few degrees beyond 45, showing that rather than balancing on a point, it is already tipping (tension in the sense of unease). I also adjusted the top square in the third thumbnail to slightly tilt down, showing that it isn’t in equilibrium.


Feedback: The second congestion thumbnail proved too ambiguous because it was hard to ascertain direction of motion; while my intention was to show the squares accumulating in the bottom left corner, the thumbnail was also interpreted to have squares flying off of the surface.


Feedback: I tried to work on making a clearer path for the first thumbnail by adding a smaller square in the background; the intention behind creating a curve was to imply movement, as if the squares were chasing after each other.


Feedback: The third thumbnail (based on the idea of shelter) seemed to imply comfort in the most original sense of the three.

Phase 3: Final compositions


My final composition has squares ordered into different groups based on size. I created an order within order by making the groupings into a composition of four large, equally-spaced squares.


My final tension thumbnail has a square slightly skewed from 45 degrees, showing that the square is in a state of unrest, and starting to fall.


I tried to resolve my earlier issue of the squares appearing to lift off the surface by making a thumbnail that could be interpreted in two different ways. Either the squares are funneling through the small gap to accumulate, or the large mass of squares is slowly trying to squeeze through the congested pathway.


I felt like using this playfulness thumbnail, which was the only one where squares would touch and overlap, emphasized its playfulness since it was in juxtaposition to the other four.

I ended up using the “shelter” comfort thumbnail, which I felt was the most visually appealing due to its symmetry and accessibility.



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