Gestalt Laws in Advertising Campaigns

Visualizers in Advertising Agencies really do love the Gestalt Laws. Almost every year advertisements playing with the Gestalt Laws win top prizes at Advertising Festivals like at Cannes or the Clio.


They make you think. A good visualization leaves something to the viewer to discover. You will involve the viewer only when you make the viewer construct meaning by him/herself. A good visualizer presents all the information in the most appealing manner, only to leave one little thing unfinished.

Like in the following example of a FreeCard, a card also which is distributed via café-bars. When you take the card out of the hanger you will see it like on the left and where you see the copy "The German Salute". When you then examine the card, you will notice a notch and besides in tiny writing: "And how to answer it". When you then try to fold the card, the notch will break and the picture on the right (F***-Finger) will emerge.

der deutsche Gruss

Here our need for (psychological) closure, i.e. our need to make sense out of the shocking headline (Der Deutsche Gruss) will make us explore the card. Then the proximity of the tiny copy text (und wie man ihn erwidert) and the notch makes us group them together in order ultimately fold the card.


Let's take a look at some more Gestalt Laws in action:




Items are grouped together if they tend to complete some entity. As we have seen in the Full and Empty Illusion.


How do we make meaning?

1. On most pictures Mao is bald and wears a collar (worker). The shapes are in RED, to guide us in our construction process as red is the color of the communist party.

2. Hitler's most striking characteristics are the side parting of his hair and his mustache. Now the shapes are in BROWN as this is the color of the nazi party.

3. The most characteristic feature of Lenin is his goat beard and his mustache. Also here the color RED guides us in our educated guesses leading to Lenin.

It is maybe noteworthy that this ad comes from Romania, an ex-communist country where the faces of those three dictators are still more vivid in memory.


Hidden Picture & Connectedness

Items will be organized into simple figures according to symmetry, regularity, smoothness and connectedness. Have you seen the dalmatian on the chapter picture? Or did you see the picture, because somebody showed it to you already? Here's a very clever variation of this principle:


Here you will notice the truck because of the two horizontal lines (regularity and symmetry) making up a quasi rectangle.



Some objects (figure) seem prominent and other aspects recede into the background. The following ad for the Brazilian magazine veja was produced during the Iraq war and won top prizes at virtually every festival. The veja campaign builds on the knowledge that we already know the figure-ground illusion pictures. They varied the principle as you either see Osama bin Laden (whole) or deAD ALive (parts).

osama bin laden

But now they are taking the principle one step further: deAD ALive could be interpreted as: Is he dead or alive? but also as We want him dead or alive! as it is hinted in the writing of ALIVE which is reminiscent of the titles of horror movies. The mix of minuscules and majuscules (together with the horny extensions of the two D's) hints the word: DEVIL.


The same applies to two other pictures of the campaign: Bush and Saddam.


Varying the principle will add additional value to a campaign. The true essence of the best campaigns will emerge after seeing at three pictures.

Last modified: Friday, 19 January 2007, 10:37 AM