ui-ux design
Apr 094 min read

3 Design Theories by Leading Pioneers of the Industry!

written by

Bhoomika HS

As designers, our understanding of the fundamentals of design often revolves around its elements and principles. However, many pioneers in the industry have developed their unique design concepts and ideologies. Over the years, various designers have explored and experimented with different topics, striving to discover the unknown. Let's delve into the contributions of three such industry leaders who ventured beyond the ordinary and defined their perspectives on the design process.

Let us discuss 3 such industry leaders who chose to step out of the ordinary and defined their own take on the design process.

1. Gestalt Theory

Gestalt psychological theory, a school of psychology that emerged in the 20th century, seeks to define the laws and principles of human perception. It explains how we perceive patterns, group similar objects, and understand complex images. Gestalt theory emphasizes that the whole is different from the sum of its parts. This holistic approach to perception has profoundly influenced design thinking.

Some key laws stated in Gestalt theory include:

  • Law of Similarity: This law states that objects that look similar are often perceived as a group or pattern. Designers use this principle to create harmony and unity in their designs by grouping similar elements.

  • Law of Continuity: According to this law, elements arranged on a line or curve are perceived to be more related than elements not on the line or curve. This principle is used to guide the viewer's eye through a design seamlessly.

  • Law of Closure: This principle asserts that our minds tend to fill in gaps to create a complete, whole object. Designers often use this law to create logos and other visuals that suggest a complete shape, even if parts are missing.

  • Proximity: This law indicates that objects close to each other are perceived as a group. Designers leverage proximity to organize information and create relationships between elements.

  • Figure and Ground: This principle distinguishes between the main subject (figure) and the background (ground). Effective use of figure and ground helps designers create clear and focused compositions.

These principles help designers understand how users perceive and interact with their designs, leading to more intuitive and effective creations.

3 Design Theories by Leading Pioneers of the Industry - image 1

Source: ManyPixels

2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s psychological hierarchy theory, developed by Abraham Maslow, explains a five-stage model of human needs, structured in a pyramidal hierarchy. This model highlights the progression of needs, starting from the most basic to the most complex. Maslow's hierarchy has profound implications for design, especially in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design.

The five needs defined by Maslow are:

  • Biological and Physiological Needs: These are the basic physical requirements for human survival, such as food, water, and shelter. In design, addressing these needs might involve creating solutions that ensure accessibility and usability for basic functions.

  • Safety Needs: These needs pertain to security and protection from harm. Designers address safety needs by ensuring privacy, data security, and reliable performance in their products.

  • Love and Belongingness Needs: This level involves social interactions and relationships. Social media platforms and community features in apps and websites are designed to fulfill these needs.

  • Esteem Needs: Esteem needs include the desire for respect, self-esteem, and recognition. Designers can cater to these needs by creating customizable experiences that allow users to express their identity and achievements.

  • Self-Actualization: This is the highest level of the hierarchy, involving the realization of one's potential and self-fulfillment. Design solutions that enable creativity, learning, and personal growth can address self-actualization needs.

Understanding Maslow's hierarchy helps designers create products and experiences that cater to the different levels of user needs, enhancing overall user satisfaction and engagement.

3 Design Theories by Leading Pioneers of the Industry - image 2Source: ThoughtCo.

3. Irwin Altman's Behavioral Theories

Irwin Altman, a social psychologist, developed four behavioral theories based on how people use the environment to shape social interactions. These theories provide valuable insights for environmental design, urban planning, and architecture.

The four behavioral concepts defined by Altman are:

  • Privacy: Altman described privacy as the ability to control interactions with others. In design, creating spaces and features that allow users to manage their privacy is crucial. This might involve designing private zones in public spaces or customizable privacy settings in digital products.

  • Territoriality: This concept refers to how individuals and groups use space to communicate ownership and personal space. Designers use territoriality principles to create areas that provide a sense of ownership and belonging.

  • Crowding: Altman's theory on crowding explores how high density affects people's behavior and stress levels. Effective design can mitigate the negative effects of crowding by ensuring adequate space and reducing sensory overload.

  • Personal Space: Personal space involves the physical distance maintained between individuals. Designers consider personal space requirements when planning layouts for public spaces, offices, and homes to ensure comfort and prevent overcrowding.

Altman's theories emphasize the importance of understanding human behavior and social dynamics in the design process. By incorporating these concepts, designers can create environments that enhance well-being and social interaction.

3 Design Theories by Leading Pioneers of the Industry - image 3

Source: SlidePlayer


These theories by Gestalt psychologists, Abraham Maslow, and Irwin Altman illustrate how deeply psychological principles influence design. They guide designers in creating user-centered, effective, and aesthetically pleasing solutions. By understanding and applying these theories, designers can push the boundaries of conventional design, leading to innovative and impactful creations.

While these are just a few examples, many more pioneers have made significant contributions to the design field. Their work continues to inspire and shape the ever-evolving world of design. Whether you are an aspiring designer or a seasoned professional, exploring these theories can provide valuable insights and enhance your design practice.

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Bhoomika HS

Bhoomika HS

This article has been written by Bhoomika HS, team Kaarwan. She is on a journey to find her voice, through her writing and inner joys!