OK, so what EXACTLY, is a freakin' "DESIGN CUE"???

I have seen this phrase used so many ways, it has to be misunderstood or it is the most misused word in the designers dictionary.


I had to think about this one for a second…

I’m assuming you mean in the context of styling, as in “the PT Cruiser takes it’s design cue from the 1950’s woody culture.”

Cue = Reference point

What do you mean by misunderstood or misued?

probably thinks it a pool cue

I’ve never heard those two words used together. It’s new to me.

a design cue in my world is a feature of a product that intuitively tells the user how the feature/product functions. for instance a pruner, a cutting instrument for pruning plants, bushes, trees…if the body of the tool is black and the lock(to open and close cutting blades) is orange…the contrast or difference in color give the user a hint as to it’s purpose - something other than the black handles it is surrounded by. to make matters more “cued” that same orange lock has an arrow or texture(not text) upon it that keys the user to interacting with it, the user understands it’s function. of course if correctly executed the product is understood without directions.

design cues can be tacticle, audible, visual…

a switch is made and you feel it “click.”
an atm machine “beeps” so you don’t forget your cash.
a led in an electronic devices switch.

of course all this is in my opinion, but i have seen these ideas practiced in several different fields of product design.