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If I were to mention psychological schools of thought, you wouldn’t necessarily think of how it applies to branding, right? But there is one, Gestalt Psychology, that definitely has a place in the development of some very recognizable brands.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is “a psychological approach that focuses on the dynamic organization of experience into patterns or configurations.” How could a German word that literally translates into “configuration” not have a place in brand development? After all, that is what branding is: a way to configure various elements, be they visual or written forms of communication, with the ultimate goal of having that information set one company apart from another.

Aside from being a psychological approach, it is a graphic approach studied within the walls of art and design schools. The theory is, that the human mind will try to organize visual information into a bigger picture, grouping similar elements and establishing patterns along the way. Gestalt as a design principle is based on psychology and I can assure you that you’ve seen brands that implement Gestalt. 

Let’s take a look at some examples. 

Unilever - Wikipedia

Unilever

Utilizing the Gestalt Law of Proximity, Unilever, a conglomerate that owns 400 global brands such as Vaseline, Hellman’s, and Ben & Jerry’s, creates the letter U as its logo from a variety of other icons. A closer look reveals everything from leaves, to spoons, to a double-helix. These many icons represent the various facets of the Unilever portfolio.

USA Network To Air Live Sports Again After NBCSN Shutdown | Barrett Media

USA Network

This TV network is home to WWE, Temptation Island, and many other entertainment favorites. Its logo uses the Gestalt Law of Closure, which forces the brain to recognize the negative space between the red “u” and “a” shapes to read as an ‘“s,” completing the pattern. 

Starbucks - Wikipedia

Starbucks

More than just a coffeehouse, Starbucks is a perfect example of a few Gestalt Laws, but primarily the Law of Symmetry. Its signature mermaid logo is a perfectly balanced mirror image from left to right. It’s pleasing to the mind to have the left mimic the right and has served as an iconic and successful logo design.

Creating a memorable visual brand identity for your business can be daunting, but understanding how an audience may be able to interpret the symbolism behind an icon can help you become more comfortable pursuing a more simplistic, abstract route. Logos that implement Gestalt are not only appealing visually but also engaging in a psychological sense, which can lead to higher recall and appreciation for the design.