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Law of Pragnanz - Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization

The law of Pragnanz is a key principle of visual perception that can help you design better websites. Find out how and why.

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Web (diseño y desarrollo)
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Web design and development are not only about creating functional and attractive websites, but also about providing a satisfying and intuitive user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). To achieve this, web designers and developers need to understand how users perceive and process visual information, and apply the principles of psychology and design to their work.

One of the most influential theories of visual perception is Gestalt psychology, which was developed by German psychologists in the early 20th century. Gestalt psychology proposes that the human mind organizes visual stimuli into meaningful patterns or wholes, rather than perceiving them as isolated elements. Gestalt psychologists identified several laws or principles of perceptual organization that explain how we group, simplify, and interpret visual information.

One of these principles is the law of Pragnanz, which is also known as the law of good figure or the law of simplicity. This law states that when we are presented with a complex or ambiguous stimulus, we tend to perceive it in the simplest and most stable way possible. In other words, we prefer order over chaos, and clarity over confusion.

The law of Pragnanz has important implications for web design, as it affects how users perceive and interact with websites. In this article, we will explore how the law of Pragnanz can be applied to UX and UI design, and provide three real examples of web design that illustrate this principle.

What is the law of Pragnanz?

The word Pragnanz comes from the German term for “pithiness” or “conciseness”. It refers to the tendency of the human mind to reduce complexity and ambiguity to simplicity and clarity. The law of Pragnanz suggests that we perceive visual stimuli in a way that minimizes cognitive effort and maximizes aesthetic appeal.

The law of Pragnanz is based on the assumption that there are multiple ways to interpret a visual stimulus, but some interpretations are more likely than others. The most likely interpretation is the one that produces the best Gestalt, or the most coherent and harmonious configuration. The best Gestalt is usually the one that has the following characteristics:

  • Symmetry: it is balanced and proportional
  • Regularity: it follows a predictable pattern or rule
  • Simplicity: it has few parts or details
  • Closure: it is complete and unbroken
  • Continuity: it is smooth and connected
  • Similarity: it has elements that share common attributes
  • Proximity: it has elements that are close together
  • Common fate: it has elements that move in the same direction

These characteristics are also known as sub-principles or factors of Pragnanz, as they contribute to the formation of good Gestalt. They can be used as guidelines for creating effective and efficient web design.

An excellent illustration of this phenomenon can be seen in the well-known Olympic rings. When viewed literally, they appear as a collection of partial circles and irregular shapes. However, our minds instinctively interpret them as interconnected rings.

Figure obtained from Venngage

How to apply the law of Pragnanz to UX design

UX design is the process of designing products or services that provide a positive and meaningful experience to users. UX design involves researching user needs, preferences, and behaviors, as well as testing and evaluating different solutions. UX design aims to enhance user satisfaction, loyalty, and trust.

The law of Pragnanz can help UX designers create products or services that are easy to use, understand, and remember. By applying the law of Pragnanz to UX design, designers can:

  • Simplify complex information and tasks
  • Organize content and features into logical groups
  • Highlight important elements and actions
  • Eliminate unnecessary elements and distractions
  • Provide clear feedback and guidance
  • Create consistent and familiar interfaces

By doing so, UX designers can reduce user cognitive load, increase user efficiency and accuracy, improve user engagement and retention, and foster user confidence and satisfaction.

How to apply the law of Pragnanz to UI design

UI design is the process of designing the visual appearance and interaction of a product or service. UI design involves creating layouts, colors, fonts, icons, images, animations, sounds, etc. UI design aims to support user goals, expectations, and emotions.

The law of Pragnanz can help UI designers create products or services that are attractive and intuitive. By applying the law of Pragnanz to UI design, designers can:

  • Use contrast and alignment to create hierarchy and emphasis
  • Use white space and grids to create balance and harmony
  • Use shapes and icons to convey meaning and function
  • Use colors and fonts to create mood and personality
  • Use animations and transitions to create motion and direction
  • Use patterns and repetition to create rhythm and unity

By doing so, UI designers can enhance user attention, interest, motivation, enjoyment, and delight.

3 real examples of web design that apply the law of Pragnanz

To illustrate how the law of Pragnanz can be applied to web design, let’s look at three real examples of websites that use this principle effectively.

1. Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud-based file storage and sharing service that allows users to access their files from any device. Dropbox uses the law of Pragnanz to create a simple and elegant web design that focuses on the user’s main goal: managing their files.

Dropbox’s homepage uses a minimalist layout that has only a few elements: a logo, a headline, a call-to-action button, and a background image. The logo and the headline are aligned to the left, creating a clear focal point. The call-to-action button is contrasted with the background image, creating a strong visual cue. The background image shows a person using a laptop, creating a sense of context and relevance.

Dropbox’s dashboard uses a grid-based layout that organizes the user’s files into folders and icons. The folders and icons are similar in shape and size, creating a sense of order and consistency. The folders and icons are also labeled with clear and concise names, creating a sense of clarity and simplicity. The dashboard also has a navigation bar on the left, a search bar on the top, and an action bar on the bottom, creating a sense of structure and functionality.

Dropbox’s web design demonstrates how the law of Pragnanz can be used to create a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing website that meets the user’s needs and expectations.

2. Spotify

Spotify is a music streaming service that allows users to listen to millions of songs, podcasts, and playlists. Spotify uses the law of Pragnanz to create an engaging and personalized web design that reflects the user’s taste and mood.

Spotify’s homepage uses a dynamic layout that changes according to the user’s activity and preferences. The homepage features large images of artists, albums, playlists, and podcasts that the user might like, creating a sense of variety and discovery. The images are arranged in horizontal rows that are separated by white space, creating a sense of continuity and proximity. The images are also overlaid with text that describes the content, creating a sense of information and interaction.

Spotify’s player uses a circular layout that emphasizes the album art of the current song, creating a sense of focus and emotion. The player also has buttons for playback control, volume control, shuffle mode, repeat mode, queue list, lyrics, etc., creating a sense of functionality and customization. The player also has a progress bar that shows the elapsed time and the remaining time of the song, creating a sense of feedback and anticipation.

Spotify’s web design demonstrates how the law of Pragnanz can be used to create an immersive and expressive website that adapts to the user’s behavior and preferences.

3. Airbnb

Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects travelers with hosts who offer unique accommodations around the world. Airbnb uses the law of Pragnanz to create an inspiring and flexible web design that helps users find and book their ideal stay.

Airbnb’s homepage uses an interactive layout that invites users to explore different destinations, experiences, and stays. The homepage features a large image slider that showcases popular places to visit, creating a sense of adventure and curiosity. The homepage also features a search bar that allows users to enter their desired location, dates, number of guests, etc., creating a sense of convenience and control. The homepage also features cards that display different categories of stays, such as entire homes, cabins, farm stays, etc., creating a sense of diversity and personalization.

Airbnb’s listing page uses a split-screen layout that displays the details of the selected stay on the left and a map of the nearby area on the right, creating a sense of context and comparison. The listing page also features tabs that allow users to switch between different sections of information, such as overview, amenities, reviews, location, etc., creating a sense of organization and completeness. The listing page also features buttons that allow users to save, share, or book the stay, creating a sense of action and decision.

Airbnb’s web design demonstrates how the law of Pragnanz can be used to create an attractive and adaptable website that matches the user’s needs and desires.


The law of Pragnanz is one of the most important principles of Gestalt psychology that can be applied to web design. It states that we tend to perceive visual stimuli in the simplest and most stable way possible. By following this principle, web designers can create websites that are easy to use, understand, remember, enjoy, and trust.

The law of Pragnanz can be applied to both UX design and UI design by using various techniques such as simplifying complexity, organizing content, highlighting elements, eliminating distractions, providing feedback, creating consistency, using contrast, alignment, white space, shapes, icons, colors, fonts, animations, patterns etc.

Some examples of web design that apply the law of Pragnanz effectively are Dropbox (simplicity), Spotify (engagement), Airbnb (inspiration). These websites show how the law of Pragnanz can enhance user satisfaction, loyalty, and trust.

Other Gestalt Laws

Check out the other five Gestalt laws in our following articles:


Here is a possible bibliography of the article with IEEE citation style and three main references:

1 J. Lidwell, K. Holden, and J. Butler, Universal Principles of Design, 2nd ed. Beverly, MA, USA: Rockport Publishers, 2010.

2 A. Cooper, R. Reimann, D. Cronin, and C. Noessel, About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th ed. Indianapolis, IN, USA: Wiley, 2014.

3 J. Nielsen and D. Norman, “Gestalt principles of form perception,” Nielsen Norman Group, Nov. 19, 2017. [Online].

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