<- Product Newsletter /

#74 - Gestalt - Law of past experience & Isomorphism

Sent the September 12th
Author face
Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

What is the Gestalt law of past experience?

Without telling you, if you visualise three separate circles, one of them being red, one of them being yellow and one of them being green, do I need to tell you what they mean? Why do you know the meaning of these circles if they are totally out of context? If you were on a remote island in the Pacific and you saw these circles, would they mean the same thing? We are sure they would, and it is thanks to Gestalt, to The Law of Past Experience.

We are continually using Gestalt psychology to reduce our mental effort to create patterns (or configurations), so we find it difficult to look for different meanings to a signifier. If we see three circles, we engage it at an impossible speed to what is a traffic light thanks to the constant and repetitive conditioning of the signifier: signified relationship in our previous experiences.

Thanks to this lies the vast majority of virtually universal icons: the floppy disk, raising or lowering the font size, printing, language flags...

When we perceive a signifier we will always simplify its meaning in order to "save mental costs", as when we see glyph unions such as "I3", is it an "L" and a "3", or a "B"?

A closely related concept is Isomorphism, which is the construction of a system similar to the original model, so we can say that the signifier of the similar system results in the meaning of the original system.

Isomorphism vs skeumorphism (Gestalt)

Do not confuse Isomorphism with Skeuomorphism, where in the first concept, there are formal similarities and correspondences between the two systems, while the second is a technique of using formal aspects of the original system to intentionally emulate a similar system.

What a mess.



Add Forms to Notion No Code Needed. Create forms, embed them anywhere, and save responses to a Notion page.

Super Builder

A drag-and-drop page builder right in Notion. Create beautiful landing pages directly in Notion. Drag & drop components, apply custom themes, and get up and running in minutes.


As Easy As Analytics Gets. Pirsch is a simple, privacy-friendly, open-source alternative to Google Analytics — lightweight, cookie-free and easily integrated into any website or directly into your backend.


Clean forms. On brand. Putting together clean, on-brand forms for your business should be easy. With Reform, it finally is. No code required.

Bravo Studio 3.0

The fastest mobile app building platform. Convert your designs into native apps, instantly.


Top-Notch Modern Exclusive Icons. Enhance your digital projects with carefully crafted modern icons, feeling the honest-to-goodness perfection with Epicons Premium!

Product Manifesto

Product Management’s Guiding Star. Up-to-date values and principles for Product People today

Articles & Ideas

The Looking Glass: If someone's gonna do it, why not you?

What I wish the little voice in my head would say, and other threads. Julie Zhuo

How to Write a Mission Statement for a UX Team: A Case Study in Design Operations

Create a team mission statement collaboratively with your team. Make sure everybody understands what a mission statement is and abstract the core purpose and value of your team by identifying themes in stories of value about your team. Kate Kaplan

Working Memory and External Memory

People have very limited ability to keep information in their working memory while performing tasks, so user interfaces should be designed accordingly: to minimize memory load. One way of doing so is to offload items to external memory by showing them on the screen. Raluca Budiu

Should you become a design manager?

Management is a great option if you want to invest in people but isn’t the only path to continued growth. Catt Small

Manager by day, Designer by night

Let’s find out together how the product design discipline has evolved and how managing design is more of a coaching and mentoring exercise. Jiri Mocicka

Explaining WCAG principles: Operable

This is Part 3 of a series of blog posts about Accessibility. In this post we are checking the WCAG Principle Operable. Check out Part 2 to learn about how to make your web content Perceivable and Part 1 for the introduction of this series. Luis Talamantes

UX reviews: a template for success

How to structure your next UX review to get actionable feedback — plus a Figma template to use. Anthony Menecola

Accessibility for E-Commerce: 3 Best Practices For Navigational Links (73% of Sites Fail)

Our rating of 33 top-grossing sites, conducted during our research on Accessibility in e-commerce, reveals that 73% of e-commerce sites have broad compliance issues when it comes to links — resulting in a subgroup of users being unable to use links to navigate site contents and resources. Alex Krzyminski

Remote Jobs

All remote jobs links have been removed, as the positions were fulfilled.