A design language or design vocabulary is an overarching scheme or style that guides the design of a complement of products or architectural settings. Designers wishing to give their suite of products a unique but consistent look and feel define a design language for it, which can describe choices for design aspects such as materials, colour schemes, shapes, patterns, textures, or layouts. They then follow the scheme in the design of each object in the suite.
Usually, design languages are not rigorously defined; the designer basically makes one thing in a similar manner as another. In other cases, they are followed strictly, so that the products gain a strong thematic quality. For example, although there is a great variety of unusual chess set designs, the pieces within a set are usually thematically consistent.
Sometimes, designers encourage others to follow their design languages when decorating or accessorizing. In the context of graphical user interfaces, for example, human interface guidelines can be thought of as design languages for applications.
In automobiles, the design language is often in the grille design. For instance, many BMW vehicles share a design language, including front-end styling consisting of a split kidney and four circular headlights. Some manufacturers have appropriated design language cues from rival firms.
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