Gestalt Factor: Proximity

Yes, it is a bit artificial splitting things up like this. However, it is useful if you want to pin down a certain point.

So, even if all the Gestalt factors spin together in the routines of our everyday life, here I will handle them one by one. For reasons of clarity. Later on, I will comment on more factor at once, and in more length.

These are pretty useful tools, if you want to be in control of your communication.

What does proximity mean, then? Closeness, nearness, not far from. I am sure you all get it, but below are one of the “official definitions” of the word “proximity”: 

“a Gestalt principle of organization holding that (other things being equal) objects or events that are near to one another (in space or time) are perceived as belonging together as a unit”. 

This is just one of the definitions that you find on the net. It is from If you want more, then just follow the link.

The factor of proximity simply states, that all things equal, it is likely that you will consider objects being close to each other also belonging to the same group. 

A couple of examples. Images of course 🙂 .

Both pictures are from Nice. Shot August 2002. I am sure that you recognize the place if you have been there. Promenade des Anglais.


 Couple One Pair

First picture. How will you describe it? Two people at the beach? Two hats at the beach. Or would you say, maybe, one couple? These two guys are not only close to each other, there are also a certain similarities between the two, wouldn’t you say? 

 Couple Two Pairs

Second picture. How would you describe this picture? Would you say, oh, I see 14 objects here; 9 chairs, on plant, and 4 people? Probably not. You would not even say, oh, I see two men and two women, would you? My guess is that you would describe this as two couples. One older, one younger.

Areas of use:  

Well, it is pretty easy.

If want two, or more, objects to be conceived as a group, then place them close to each other. The human mind does the finishing work for you; grouping them.

For instance; if you have a dominant visual element, and a logo that you want perceived as being one unit, then place them close to each other. If you have a text, and you desire to link themes, then one of the ways you can do that, is by grouping the themes in the text (all others things being equal).

And you can play around with the proximity factor. Use it straight forward for straight grouping, or once you have established the group, then play around with it for different effects.

If you, for instance, replace the standing guy, right, with a bottle of Bacardi, you still keep the proximity, but you add connotations, that are quite different from what you find in the picture as it is now. Right? Could be a suggestion that younger couples, particularly men, drink more than older people. Or, for that matter, have more fun. Or wives have more fun? Or maybe just the opposite will come out of it? They don’t have more fun? In this example, you need to be in control of connotations as well.

There are lots of ways, in which you can use the proximity factor in your communication. 


What happens if you replace both men with bottles of Bacardi?  See what I mean?

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