Technical Brief

Quantification of Classical Gestalt Principles in Two-Dimensional Product Representations

[+] Author and Article Information
José E. Lugo

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of Puerto Rico,
Mayagüez Campus,
Mayagüez, PR 00681
e-mail: jose.lugo2@upr.edu

James P. Schmiedeler

Fellow ASME
Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering,
University of Notre Dame,
Notre Dame, IN 46556
e-mail: schmiedeler.4@nd.edu

Stephen M. Batill

Fellow ASME
Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering,
University of Notre Dame,
Notre Dame, IN 46556
e-mail: batill@nd.edu

Laura Carlson

Department of Psychology,
University of Notre Dame,
Notre Dame, IN 46556
e-mail: lcarlson@nd.edu

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received June 19, 2014; final manuscript received June 24, 2015; published online July 14, 2015. Assoc. Editor: Kristina Shea.

J. Mech. Des 137(9), 094502 (Sep 01, 2015) (4 pages) Paper No: MD-14-1365; doi: 10.1115/1.4030988 History: Received June 19, 2014; Revised June 24, 2015; Online July 14, 2015

Gestalt principles have previously served as qualitative guidelines for good visual design in art, architecture, and product design. This paper introduces a formal method to quantify classical Gestalt principles (proximity, continuity, closure, symmetry, parallelism, and similarity) for two-dimensional product representations. With the approach, designers use their judgment to divide a 2D representation of a new concept or existing design into its key atomistic elements, identify the most appropriate Gestalt principles that apply to the grouping of those elements, and then can objectively quantify the design’s adherence to those principles using mathematical functions of the design parameters. This quantification provides a tool to augment a design team’s own subjective interpretations in evaluating and communicating a product’s visual appearance at any stage of or throughout the design process.

Copyright © 2015 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Reid, T. N., Gonzalez, R. D., and Papalambros, P. Y., 2010, “Quantification of Perceived Environmental Friendliness for Vehicle Silhouette Design,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(10), p. 101010. [CrossRef]
Tseng, I., Cagan, J., Kotovsky, K., and Wood, M., 2012, “Form Function Fidelity,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 135(1), p. 011006. [CrossRef]
Tseng, I., Kotovsky, K., and Cagan, J., 2012, “Concurrent Optimization of Computationally Learned Stylistic Form and Functional Goals,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 134(11), p. 111006. [CrossRef]
Sylcott, B., Cagan, J., and Tabibnia, G., 2013, “Understanding Consumer Tradeoffs Between Form and Function Through Metaconjoint and Cognitive Neuroscience Analyses,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 135(10), p. 101002. [CrossRef]
Reid, T. N., MacDonald, E. F., and Du, P., 2013, “Impact of Product Design Representation on Customer Judgment,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 135(9), p. 091008. [CrossRef]
Lugo, J. E., 2014, Integrating Product Form Preference into Engineering Design, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame. IN.
Wertheimer, M., 1923, “Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt,” Psycologische Forsch., 4(1), pp. 301–350 [CrossRef].
Wertheimer, M., and Ellis, W. D., 1938, “Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms,” A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology, Harcourt and Brace, New York, pp. 71–88.
Koffka, K., 1935, Principles of Gestalt Psychology, Harcourt Brace and Co., Rahway, NJ.
Kovcs, I., and Julesz, B., 1993, “A Closed Curve is Much More Than an Incomplete One: Effect of Closure in Figure-Ground Segmentation,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 90(16), pp. 7495–7497. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Zwickel, T., Wachtler, T., and Eckhorn, R., 2007, “Coding the Presence of Visual Objects in a Recurrent Neural Network of Visual Cortex,” Biosystems, 89(13), pp. 216–226. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Sarkar, S., and Boyer, K., 1994, “A Computational Structure for Preattentive Perceptual Organization: Graphical Enumeration and Voting Methods,” IEEE Trans. Syst., Man Cybern., 24(2), pp. 246–267. [CrossRef]
Orsborn, S., Boatwright, P., and Cagan, J., 2008, “Identifying Product Shape Relationships Using Principal Component Analysis,” Res. Eng. Des., 18(4), pp. 163–180. [CrossRef]
Orsborn, S. D., 2007, Quantifying Aesthetic Preference Through Statistics Applied to an Agent-Based Shape Grammar Implementation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Examples of continuity and closure principles

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Illustration of proximity principle (adapted from Ref. [8])

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Angular proximity: (a) between atomistic elements and (b) between geometric shapes

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Continuity between atomistic elements—two adjacent dashes within the dashed curve at the top

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Illustration of continuity principle (adapted from Ref. [8])

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Illustration of closure principle (decreasing in closure from left to right)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Reflection symmetry. The dotted curve is perfectly symmetric to the left-side curve, whereas the solid right-side curve is not.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Illustration of reflection symmetry principle (decreasing in reflection symmetry from left to right)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Rotation symmetry. The solid black number four at the upper left is perfectly rotation symmetric to the gray four but not the nearby solid black four.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 10

Illustration of parallelism principle (decreasing in parallelism from left to right)



Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In