It could be luck, or it could be because the logo designer has a grounding in Gestalt principles as applied to design. The word gestalt means “unified whole.” Gestalt theory originates from 1920s German psychology, a school of thought which believed that context was critical in determining content and subject.

 

Closure is one of the key elements of gestalt theory. It utilises our inclination to see closed (whole) shapes, even where there is no such thing. We will ‘close’ and complete a shape that hasn’t been fully formed, filling in missing information if necessary. This is because we are very good as a species at filling in blanks and jumping to conclusions (right or wrong) from situations where there is incomplete information. It is a safety mechanism that evolved to help us quickly assess a situation, take precautionary measures and live to fight another day.

 

While our lives away from the savannah might not feature too many life or death decision making scenarios, they do feature plenty of visual communication.

 

Logo design often takes full advantage of this tendency, allowing for creative use of negative space, stencilled shapes and incomplete forms to create logos that fulfills the remits of communication and attention grabbing design.

 

The IBM logo is a classic example of this. The separate elements are simply lines that denote nothing. The elements as a whole provide enough context (to someone who knows the alphabet), to communicate the brand name and to do so in a striking manner.

 

Closure in design is a principle that allows the designer to gently toy with with us, to create work that is playful and imaginative. But for closure to be effective, the designer has to successfully bridge the gap between the desired end communication and the incomplete shape. If the viewer cannot make that leap easily then they won’t be able to understand the whole and the design fails on a basic level. It should never be hard to fill in the missing pieces.