Measurement & Instrumentation

How Wine Tasting and the Gestalt Principles of Perception Improve My Designs

by Jannette Whippy 24 Jul 2012
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It’s rare for me to meet a Cabernet Sauvignon that I don’t like. My favorites are Cabs with backbone: big and full-bodied. I like my wines earthy (even a little herbaceous [taste and aroma of herbs]) with some tobacco flavor. And I love when the wine finishes dry. My wine preferences have matured and changed over the years (I have attended many, many tastings) I started off liking the more fruity, light reds and creamy, buttery chardonnay’s and now I really cannot abide either.

My design skills have also matured and improved through the years. I have designed many pages, some good, some great, some forgettable, and some truly insightful. I find that my best designs are conceived when I have a few key principles in mind. When keeping proximity, similarity, and order (a few of the Gestalt principles of perception) top of mind I produce clean, easily navigable pages.

  • Proximity occurs when elements are placed close together. While they are still separate objects they are perceived as unified because they are close to each other.
  • Similarity occurs when objects look similar to one another; they are then perceived as a group or pattern. Repetition of colors or objects is pleasing and aids in fast comprehension.
  • Order (or symmetry) occurs when the whole of a figure is perceived rather than the individual items that make it up. When designing to instruct, order and symmetry help the information to be consumed and comprehended quickly.

There are more principles, but these three are the ones that help me the most when designing guidebooks.

Chelsea Cappetta created this slideshow that showcases all the Gestalt Principles:

Simplicity is beautiful, especially if your end goal is comprehension. Attending all those tastings allowed me to learn what I liked and didn’t like and have been the building blocks for me to be a more informed and happy wine drinker. The Gestalt Principles give me a great starting point when designing a page, as long as I know how things interrelate on the page, I can then design the page for maximum, full-bodied, consumption.

Jannette is the Senior Graphic Design Artist for Growth Team Membership, a premier best practices research group within Frost & Sullivan. You can follow her on Twitter: @jwhippy.

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