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Perception in visual communication

12 Aug, 2015 - 00:08 0 Views
Perception in visual communication “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”, is a phrase often used to explain the Gestalt principles

The Herald

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”, is a phrase often used to explain the Gestalt principles

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”, is a phrase often used to explain the Gestalt principles

Knowledge Mushohwe Art Zone

Some historians feel the ability of humans to complete visuals using information that would otherwise not be provided is a survival instinct that has for many years allowed us to complete the form of a predator even with inadequate information.

Parts of any artwork may tell particular stories individually, but it is the whole that gives viewers the full picture.

And when looking at the whole, some latent messages, almost always encoded by the artist deliberately, may become apparent, according to the Gestalt laws and principle.

Gestalt is a psychological term that translates to ‘unified whole’ and refers to theories related to visual perception and developed by German psychologists in the late 1920s.

Gestalt theorists that included Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka based their principal understating of visual perception on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Their theory says a painting of, say, a woman in a maize field as a whole carries a different and altogether greater meaning than the individuals making it, including the paint, canvas, vegetation, ground and sky.

The ‘whole’ when viewed makes the viewer go through the linear process of firstly comprehending the parts and then realising and understanding the whole.

The theorists believed that it was the nature of the human mind to attempt to make sense out of chaos or disorganisation, to try and create harmony or structural arrangements from seemingly disconnected or unrelated information.

Nowadays, it is no longer enough for an art student to simply give a verdict on any artwork without justifying basing on theory.

Gestalt principles work closely with principles and elements of design in giving a comprehensive and scientific understanding of the art world.

Gestalt principles include similarity, continuation, figure/ground relationship and closure or proximity.

If two or more objects share some sort of similarity, the human mind often perceives them as a group or pattern.

As an example, the OK supermarkets logo is made up of two distinct letters, an ‘O’ and a ‘K’, but because the font used on both is similarly red, round and smooth, people would automatically group the two and come up with a complete human figure occupying a horizontal space with arms spread at a ninety degree angle to the body and with more animated bow shaped legs suggesting motion.

Continuation on the other hand is all about movement.

It may be achieved when one’s eye is compelled to move through one object and continue to another. Just like the logo on ‘Go-liner’, a cross-border bus company with the logo of an eagle leaving a trail through its flight pattern, the eye naturally follows the vector from the undefined end to the one with an identifiable object.

A human eye makes the distinction between a form, silhouette or shape which it perceives as figure or object, and the surrounding area which is perceived as ground or background.

Identifying the balance between the figure and the ground allows the viewer to make meaning clearer.

In logos and mastheads, the distinction between figure and background may be blurred, but the area that provides the direct meaning to the visual is regarded as the object.

The Herald masthead and that of H-Metro are both a combination of red and white but there are significant differences between them.

For the Herald mast, the background is white and the object (letters spelling ‘The Herald’) is in red and use Times New Norman condensed.

H-Metro masthead is the reverse of the Herald masthead and was developed using a font from the Helvetica family.

The difference between object and background is therefore not the colour, but the source of the overall meaning and disparities in prominence from one area to another.

Psychological closure is one Gestalt principle that stands out from the rest.

It argues that eyes naturally tend to fill in the missing parts to obtain a complete image.

Based on principles of proximity, similarity, and continuity people tend to combine elements which appear closer to one another (proximity), we will group similarly shaped elements together (similarity), and we will see a dominant line or shape, rather than detached sections.

Psychological closure reveals latent information that may not be apparent at first glance.

Some historians feel the ability of humans to complete visuals using information that would otherwise not be provided is a survival instinct that has for many years allowed us to complete the form of a predator even with inadequate information.

A complex object is to human eyes and mind a group of simple items that can be put together to form an overall meaning.

We can recognise a human face even if large parts of it may be covered by items such as hat, sunglasses, or a scarf or turban.

The mind supplies the missing parts from memory.

Closure is used extensively by artists in producing their work.

It is not much about quantity, but rather the quality of the information that lets the viewer read an image.

A smart artist deliberately leaves some things for the viewers to supply when they look at an image.

For artists and anyone else interested in reading clues in visual language, psychological closure is the ultimate key and it is not so difficult to understand.

That is because it is and will always be part of human nature.

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