The Interpretation of Design-Based Cues: A Processual Approach

Micki Eisenman, Michal Frenkel, Varda Wasserman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


We advance current understandings about the nature of interpretative processes unique to designbased-cues—elements in the organizational environment, such as colors or textures—that affect institutional processes by shaping behaviors and emotions. The implicit assumption in extant work is that because these cues are salient, they are tightly-coupled with distinct meanings. We argue, however, that interpretation in the context of these cues is processual rather than linear or finite. We explain this argument by exploring the interpretation of design-based-cues given tensions along three planes. First, tensions between individual and intersubjective levels of interpretations. Second, tensions among the multiple cues that co-exist in organizational workspaces, whose interpretations may reinforce or contradict each other. Third, tensions emanating from the ways the design-based-cues themselves transform over time due to deliberate and natural change. On the basis of these arguments, we reveal the inherent complexity and dynamism of interpreting these cues. The chapter, therefore, suggests that while it may seem intuitive that design-based-cues have the potential to facilitate the institutionalization of emotions, behaviors, and meanings, design based-cues are actually less likely to stabilize, carry, and maintain taken-for-granted interpretations in organizational settings.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationInstitutions and Organizations
Subtitle of host publicationA Process View
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780198843818
StatePublished - 2019


  • institutions, organization theory, institutional theory, process perspective, institutional logics


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