Gestalt Factor: Similarity

Ok then, let’s move on to the next gestalt factor; the factor of similarity.

This one is really easy: things that are similar tends to be grouped together. Not physically grouped, as with proximity, but mentally grouped. They band together.

In the article by Wertheimer already mentioned, he says:  “Thus we are led to the discovery of a second principle – viz. the tendency of like parts to band together – which we may call The Factor of Similarity“.

He states that this factor, as with proximity, is both visual and auditory, it works for sounds as well as for form and colour. I can think of many more areas, but let’s leave it at that for the moment.

What does the word similarity mean. You all have answers to that, but let’s go for the official versions by quoting a dictionary. Just to be on the safe side.

Wikipedia says: “Similarity is some degree of symmetry in either analogy and resemblance between two or more concepts or objects. The notion of similarity rests either on exact or approximate repetitions of patterns in the compared items”.

You might have noticed, that I already touched upon similarity in the post on proximity, where I suggested that the two elderly people not only were sitting close to each other, but also had similar traits. Let me expand on that a bit: They both wear straw hats as protection against the sun, they both sit in the same type of chairs; they both wear casual summer clothing; etcetera. Similar could be says about the younger standing at the right hand side.

I could go on, as I am sure you could. Let’s have a look at one of the pictures once more.

Couple Two Pairs

Remember what happened, when I suggested that you substitute the standing man for a standing bottle of Bacarci? Well, you don’t break the proximity. You ungroup the couple, so to speak, because the two objects are no longer similar.

And what happens when substituting both men for bottles of Bacardi? You break the illusion of a quite beach scene, and moves the picture into a surreal world. Right?

You don’t have to agree with me in this interpretation, as long as we can agree that the picture takes on a different set of denotations, as well as connotations. See former post.

If you, in your imagination, substitute the two gentlemen with bottles of Bacardi, other things happens as well. The proximity is still intact, but the original similarity is not. Now we have (in the imagined Bacardi picture) two different sets of similarities. All of a sudden the two women band together. As does the bottles of Bacardi. We have suddenly got one group of people, and one group if Bacardis. This is the factor of similarity working.

I don’t want to linger on this much longer. It’s pretty obvious what happens, and how similarity dismantle proximity, and regroups the content of the picture.

Another shot coming up. What would I have done without them 🙂 .

The Looking Glass

The people proximity isn’t that strong in this shot. The two guys are at separate ends of the glass cylinder. Why are they still grouped? Well, for one reason they are both black; they are both looking into the glass cylinder, they both have bended bodies. They are both standing up. There are lots of reasons. I am sure that you can think of some, as well.

So, let’s end it here. This is, after all, a blog, and not a lecture 🙂 . Let me suggest some areas of use, as with proximity.

Areas of Use: 

Lots of it would say. Here are a few ones on the fly.

Combining striking colour and striking mood; combining product form and overall visual form; combining black coffee with black panther; combining Red Label with Red Fire; combining colour content with business image content, combining text structure with visual content structure; combining music with mood,  combining woman’s body with sand dunes, combining young child with young tree, combining text with context, combining, combining, combining, combining .. this it getting really boring. You come up with some examples – in any context of communication you can possibly think of.

Or do the opposite: chose dissimilarity, and get striking never-heard-of-effects.  As with the Bacardis.

The gestalt factors works both ways: use them straight to group, or use them faked to ungroup.


Do you see the young girl at the far end of the glass cylinder? Do you really? Or do you see a random structure of black dots?

Coming up soon is another gestalt factor; the factor of closure 🙂 .

All for now. Thanks.


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