dashboard design

psychology of perception – keep these 6 gestalt principles in mind for your dashboard.

Carla Märkl

Carla Märkl

Without us noticing it, websites, programs, or apps influence our perception and thereby our actions. This is because they are designed in a certain way and follow specific rules – the Gestalt principles.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how these Gestalt principles can help you design an engaging and understandable dashboard. Using easy-to-follow examples, they will show you the core elements of successful design.

In our blog post “which key figures belong on a dashboard – and which do not”, we already showed you how to distinguish important information and key figures on your dashboard from unimportant ones to align your dashboard with the needs of your target group. In the blog post on “dashboard design basics”, we also gave you some design tips for the perfect dashboard. Today, we’re going to talk about design principles that will help you take your dashboard design to the next level. 

the origin of gestalt principles.

Gestalt principles offer a psychological approach to how the human brain perceives and orders visual information. The theory behind them was developed in the 1910s and 1920s by German psychologist May Wertheimer and his colleagues. Since then, it has found its way into various fields, including design theory.
Gestalt principles are concerned with the perception of coherent objects and are based on the fact that humans draw on experience when processing information. For example, when we look at a painting, we don’t see individual brushstrokes, we see the entire painting. When graphic designers understand how viewers interpret visual information, they can consciously use it to emphasize visual relationships and communicate more effectively.

which principles are important for dashboard design and what do they say?

In Gestalt psychology, human perception is described as the ability to identify structures and ordering principles in sensory impressions. These are defined by the so-called Gestalt principles. They provide an explanation of why we see graphics as meaningful groupings rather than as accumulations of pixels and dots. There are several dozen Gestalt principles – below we list the most important 6 that play a role in the design of a dashboard.

principle of similarity.

Elements that are similar are grouped by our perception and seen as belonging together. At the same time, elements that differ in characteristics are perceived as independent of each other. Elements on your dashboard may be the same or similar in color, shape, size, or orientation. 

principle of proximity.

Spatial proximity can make elements appear to be part of a unit. Use this knowledge for your dashboard by placing related elements in close to each other.
By the way, Gestalt principles can also cancel each other out. For example, elements that are close to each other, even if they are similar, are often perceived as part of a group.

principle of emphasis.

By deliberately highlighting a feature, individual elements can stand out from other elements on your dashboard. So work with colors or variance in the size of elements to bring them to the center of attention easily.

principle of continuity.

The brain automatically fills in missing lines or continues meaningful sequels. This is why we tend to perceive objects that are arranged along a continuous line as connected, compared to other figures. This is also the reason why, for example, table rows and columns can be recognized as such even without a dividing line.

principle of common region.

Elements that lie within a common region are seen as belonging together. Therefore, whenever you place a frame or a visual boundary, e.g. in the form of colored areas or contour lines, around individual elements, the grouping changes.


principle of connection.

Elements connected to each other are perceived as a single entity. The principle of connection can trump the principles of proximity and similarity. It allows you to associate individual elements on the dashboard with each other.

should you consider all design principles when designing dashboards?

Clearly – no. But keep in mind how the psychology of design works in the human brain and the impact it can have on the viewer. So instead of randomly distributing and arranging your elements on your dashboard, ask yourself beforehand:

your checklist.

So, do you remember everything? Below you will find a short checklist for better memorization and direct implementation:

Try the Peakboard Designer and create your individual dashboard.

With these tricks and tips, you can present your key figures in the right light!

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