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Mechanisms of Design

Everybody, who is competing for people’s attention, is looking for starting points that let them stand out from the rush of sensual stimuli. For this purpose we all can rely on basic patterns – Gestalt principles or Gestalt laws. These are mechanisms that can direct, guide and seduce perception.

The media has used for a long time these mechanisms, which are also treated in Gestalt psychology. The following mechanisms describe some basic principles.

  • Mechanism of the figure-ground (1)
    The perception happens quasi-automatically, without deliberately parsing a scene. Thus the attention subconsciously lands in an image on the central object, the figure placed in front of a background. In rare cases, the background comes to the fore and distracts from the actual foreground.
    In order to pack a message easily recognizable, the content should stand out clearly from the background.
  • Mechanism of proximity (2)
    If several things are close to each other, then we perceive them as a group. That way, extensive representations can be divided into smaller areas. Good examples are newspapers in which paragraphs in the print space are delimited from each other by a corresponding white space.
    In order to make the outline of something easier to recognize, related parts should be closer to, with a noticeable distance from each other.
  • Mechanism of continuity (3)
    If things are in line and follow a path that consistently continues across borders, we assume that they belong together. This can be found on maps where lines often cross one another. The observers are able to detect the continuation of a line when ambiguous intersections are avoided.
    Related elements should be arranged in a line and other groups should be clearly differentiated.
  • Mechanism of closure (4)
    If individual elements form a closed form, then we no longer regard the individual building blocks as noteworthy, but rather the resulting form. The meaning then arises from the resulting group.
    Groups can be made visible through an according arrangement of certain elements into a formation.
  • Mechanism of similarity (5,10)
    The same shape or color is a strong indication that they are similar things. In situations that consist of many individual parts, we are able to identify the groups because of the similarity of the elements. In moving constellations groups can also be distinguished due to the same direction of movement.
    Things that belong together should have common features, e.g. shape, color or size. The elements that do not belong should be clearly set off.
  • Mechanism of the common region (6,7,9)
    If individual elements are found in areas separated by a border, we perceive the individual parts in different zones as related. The individual areas result from recognizable borders or areas of different colors, surfaces or shapes. The common regions may result from a simple pattern, such as a chessboard, or from an organic figure.
    Through forming areas by drawing boundaries or designing areas, the respective building blocks can be presented as a group.
  • Mechanism of personal experience (8)
    An important mechanism is the personal experience of the observers. If they already know certain constellations, they recognize the corresponding groups. This becomes understandable, for example, when you learn a new writing system (for example Japanese Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji). Without the familiar types of strokes, non-Asians find it hard to learn the scriptures. Since everyone provides a unique set of experiences, teams recognize more structures than individuals.
    Different people should be involved for detecting groups, since more experience will lead to better creation of groups.

Bottom line: The presented mechanisms are sometimes are called Gestalt principles or Gestalt laws. However, this does not imply that these mechanisms will always work. But our pattern recognition influences the observation of objects like pictures, texts, films, web pages, etc. Our perception is guided through the content by the mechanisms figure-ground, closeness, continuity, closeness, similarity, common region and personal experience- whether we want it or not. The conscious use of the Gestalt principles, the Gestalt laws or the mechanisms of design ensures that we do not send ambiguous messages.

The dream – the ideal metaphor for boundlessness

Even if we have the impression that we completely zone out at night, we process the events of the day. On the one hand, you „sleep on“ and strengthen evaluations, and on the other hand, the imagination makes a journey. In the dream you develop scenarios that can be considered beyond the possibilities of reality. If you get this condition into a team, then you can look far beyond the horizon. Thus the dream is the ideal metaphor for boundlessness.

In the dream you are in a space that is released from physical and mental limits, and that gives you the opportunity to let your thoughts run wild. This overcomes the limits in the following aspects.

  • Need for change
    In the dream the wall of the external driver, which build up our consciousness and the objective concerns, is torn down. Then technology overcomes the currently feasible. Culture eradicates limiting beliefs and actions. The entrepreneurial structure is freed from its structural and operational barriers. The economy opens previously unattainable fields of action.
    This is especially true for the change fields. Completely new strategies can be explored with hitherto unimaginable conditions. The business model can open in every direction and create completely new co-operations and services. Especially in the self-image, the limits can be reset, if you do not let yourself be limited by accustomed actions, skills and beliefs.
    In the dream, it becomes possible to simulate the what-if, without having to be thwarted by pragmatic arguments in the beginning.
  • Ability to change
    By letting go the traditional knowledge and skills, solutions can be applied that were previously unthinkable. If the existing ideas regarding the change ability of employees and executives burst, doors open in all directions. This applies to the technical skills, to handling abstract procedures, to social interactions and above all to overcoming the division of labor based on a holistic approach.
    In a dream, it becomes possible to imagine the company as an agile whole that opens up new fields of expertise, regions and markets.
  • Readiness for change
    If one manages to work through and solve the problems in the dream, then one can use this particular form of reality, which is no longer associated with limiting notions, to find the entry point at which the concerned parties are ready to engage with changes. The formal impulses are the starting point, which can go far beyond the current incentive systems. Above all, outside of the limiting portfolio of initiatives, substantive elements can be found that carry the workforce along. Not to mention the personal satisfaction that is generated by appropriate appreciation.
    In the dream it becomes possible to imagine the workforce completely committed without resistance.

Bottom line: The dream overcomes the limits of everyday life. The need for change is accepted, generously interpreted and satisfied with unusual solutions. The abilities that are otherwise perceived as limitations are hidden and are no longer hurdles for genuine novelties. The assumptions regarding readiness to change are missing and exciting solutions can be worked through with committed employees and executives. If you manage to lead a team into the daydream, then new visions can be worked out in respective workshops, without getting major concerns in the way. This makes the dream an ideal metaphor of boundlessness.