Gestalt Principle: The Law of Closure

Most people know when a logo design is successful, whether or not they have a background in graphic design. But what is it about logo designs that make them successful? And on the flip side, what causes so many poorly designed logos to fail? I will tackle this exact subject in a series of posts that will delve into the design principles used to create effective logos.

First up let’s take a look at the Gestalt Principle (or law), also known as the “Law of Simplicity.” The Gestalt Principle is a theory that says our minds self-organize information in a manner that is orderly, regular, symmetric, and simple. This means that when we see a cluster of lines and shapes our minds attempt to organize them into a single, cohesive form, rather than a collection of individual parts. It should go without saying that the Gestalt Principles are extremely helpful when trying to understand how a logo will be perceived by an audience.

WWF Logo Showing Closure

WWF Logo Using Closure

So let’s jump right in and take a look at the law of closure. Just to be clear the law of closure will not help you bury the hatchet with your “ex.” (That kind of closure is a lot tougher to figure out).

The kind of closure we are talking about occurs when a series of visual elements suggest a connection between one another, when, in fact, they never actually touch.

A great example of this is the World Wide Fund For Nature designed by Sir Peter Scott in 1961. The image of the panda is not complete because the areas of white on the panda are not defined by a stroke or shape. However, our minds still recognize the shape of the panda and complete (or close) the two areas of white in order to make sense of the panda’s head and body.

Using the law of closure makes any logo more interesting. Paul Rand’s original design for the IBM logo in 1956 used solid letterforms based on the typeface City. It was only later, in 1960, that he used eight solid lines, separated by empty space, to add interest to the logo design. Both versions represent the same three letters, but using the law of closure makes the mark all that more interesting and causes the name to stand out amongst it’s competition.

IBM Logo

IBM Logo

Other examples of closure in classic logo designs can be seen in the Playboy rabbit logo created by Arthur Paul in 1953 and the NBC Peacock logo designed by Chermayeff & Geismar in 1986. In both instances shapes are placed near one another, but, as you can see, none of the shapes actually touch. This causes us to think a bow-tie or a peacock is present.

Playboy Logo & NBC Logo Using Closure

Playboy Logo & NBC Logo Using Closure

Using closure in your logo designs is a great way to add interest and help your client stand out. When used correctly it only subtly hints at what it is trying to represent, but is always easily identifiable upon closer examination. So the next time you are sketching out logo ideas for a client see if you can work in a few solutions that use closure. It may be the difference that makes or breaks the logo.

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11 Responses to Gestalt Principle: The Law of Closure

  1. juanrules says:

    Hi bro! I was looking for some examples about gestalt theories for my homework and google send me here.

    Great post and advice. Greetings from Venezuela

    Reply
  2. Jeremy says:

    Hey Juan. Glad you enjoyed the post. I am always happy to hear the information on my blog has helped other people learn some of the basics about the gestalt theories. Keep it up!

    Reply
  3. sumedha ramanan says:

    i must say , i’ve been reading a lot of sites to understand gestalt theories,,,, ur blog so far has quoted really awesome examples and the explainations …. we often see images on walls and bathroom tiles,, something like the face on mars that was recently discovered….which law of gestalt does that fall into?? and i don’t understand what the following laws are about
    Law of Common Fate
    Law of Isomorphism
    Law of Focal Point
    Law of Simplicity
    Law of Unity

    Reply
  4. Jeremy says:

    Thanks Sumedha. I am glad you found these posts regarding gestalt principles helpful. As time permits I would like to cover the rest of the gestalt principles to be a resource to others like yourself. The great thing about the principles is that they are beneficial to a wide range of design disciplines.

    As far as the face on Mars I think that would fall into the law of closure and/or the law of proximity. I think people can look at a variety of images and pick out things that look familiar to them. The image from mars only has bits and pieces that resemble a face, but because of how they are laid out we “recognize” them as a face because our minds are always looking to make sense out of chaos. The same can be true of images found on burnt toast, in the knots on wood, etc.

    I hope that helps and I hope to provide you with more gestalt principles soon.

    Reply
  5. Tweets that mention Gestalt Design Principles: The Law of Closure | Jeremy Bolton | Logo Designer -- Topsy.com says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by caroslash, Connie Malamed. Connie Malamed said: Gestalt Law of Closure can be seen and used in logo design – http://ow.ly/3SQ0p [...]

    Reply
  6. shaheen says:

    your blog has provided brief intro about gestalts law of principles.good examlples

    Reply
  7. gale says:

    your blog is really helpful..i just wanna ask if you know how the principles can relate to interior design? i just need it for my homework

    Reply
  8. Igor says:

    Hi,

    I would like to say thank you for this great article, and your insight.
    The only critique that I have is that WWF logo with GAPS wasn’t created in Sir Peter Scott in 1961 but it was created in SF in 1986 by Tom Suiter and Jenny Leibundgut
    http://www.logodesignlove.com/world-wildlife-fund

    Reply
  9. Why Your Brain Thinks These Dots Are A Dog | Gizmodo Australia says:

    [...] Still, as long as there is enough information to allow for the “efficient function of closure,” or the ability to draw conclusions using minimal effort (such as with the easily identifiable panda above), we will more often than not come to the right conclusions — and be able to enjoy our just reward. [Andy Rutledge, Changing Minds, Wikispaces, Jeremy Bolton] [...]

    Reply

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