30 Design Terms explained for Non-Designers

Terminology can be confusing, but the language graphic designers talk may also be a challenge.What’s a body crop? CMYK, RGB, LOL… So many technical terms get thrown around, it can be trouble at the best of times. But when you’re a newbie it just becomes confusing when commissioning graphic designers, so sit back and let us guide you through the ebonics.

Whether you’re a new designer yourself, are just a little curious, or are simply trying to decipher your web designer’s emails, sit back and relax as we break down some common terms for you.

01. Typography

The style and appearance of printed matter, The artistic arrangement of type in a readable and visually appealing way. Typography usually concerns the design and use of various typefaces in a way that helps to better visually communicate ideas through print and the web.

02. Body Copy

The main part of the text in your design or publication – the written website content, the book contents, even this type you’re reading right now, it’s all body copy.

03. Display Type

Display Type or Display Text both have the objective of drawing in attention and attracting people to read. Think of newspaper headlines and movie poster titles.

04. Hierarchy

This is when the visual arrangement of different design elements signifies importance on the page. A great example of this is you might make a title big and bold to gain more attention than a small, lighter coloured image caption.

05. Kerning

The adjustment of space between two characters in your type. Kerning aims to achieve a proportional and pleasing balance of space between each character.

06. Leading (ledding)

It should be pronounced ‘ledding’ but, leading refers to the space between lines of type, again aiming for some balance within your spacing.

07. Tracking

Tracking describes the space between letters. When tracking bodies of text, you are adjusting space between every single letter in a word in order to change the appearance of a large block of the type just like our friend ‘body copy’.

08. X-Height

X-Height is quite simple, it describes the average height of lowercase letters. X-height grabs its name as this value is usually exemplified by looking at the height of the letter x in any typeface.

09. Ascender

The part of a lowercase letter that extends above our friend x-height. The most common examples of these are ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘f’.

10. Descenders

The part of a lowercase letter that extends below the x-height. The most common examples of these are ‘g’, ‘j’, ‘p’.

11. Rules of Three

This you may know already as it’s used in the outside world is prevalent, The Rule of Thirds is a theory that if you divide your image with two vertical and two horizontal lines, The areas left will be the main part of your design.

12. Serif Typeface

A typeface with strokes (called ‘serifs’) found on the end horizontal and vertical lines. Serif typefaces historically look more professional, authoritative, and traditional in its appearance.

13. Sans Serif Typeface

A typeface no decorative serif strokes. Sans serifs are more modern, stylish, and a cleaner finish. Currently used in the advertising world quite a lot.

14. Script Typeface

Since the days of Windows 98 a Script typeface is something we have all used, you know the ones that look like handwriting. Script typefaces tend to be used for a more personal touch.

15. Slab Serif Typeface

A thick, blocky typeface Slab serifs are meant to be strong longer and command importance, think newspaper headlines, think formal, think importance.

16. Legibility

A measurement or metric of how easy it is to distinguish one letter from the next. Legibility has a lot to do with your choice of typeface and how, and when you use it.

17. Alignment

This I’m sure you have heard of, but Alignment is simply aligning your elements to achieve an overall order or balance to your layout. Think Microsoft word, you can align your different typographical elements to centre, left and right.

18. Pull Quote

This one is a day-to-day thing, A short excerpt pulled from your main text then used as a visual element to help highlight the importance of a piece. Newspapers, Magazine and online publications all use these.

19. Palette

The selection of colours that you choose to use for your design, you know that wooden thing that famous French artist used to keep there paint on? Yeah, that thing is also a Palette.

20. Monochrome

No, it’s not only an Instagram Filter, it’s also a colour scheme built out of only one colour, which includes a lighter and darker tone of that color.

21. Analogous

Not a synth but, a colour scheme built from three colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel.

22. Complementary

It’s a colour scheme built from only two colors that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel.

23. Triadic

It’s a colour scheme built from only three colors equally spaced across the colour wheel.

24. CMYK

CMYK also known as ‘Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key’, is a model that is used for print purposes. CMYK is a subtractive color, this means that we begin with white and end up with black. So if you add more colour, the result turns darker.

25. RGB

RGB also known as ‘Red, Green, Blue’ is a model that is used for on-screen purposes. RGB is a additive color, meaning that when mixing colors, we start with black and end up with white as more colour is added.

26. Pantone (PMS)

The Iconic ‘Pantone Matching System’ is a standardised system of colors for printing. Every Pantone shade is numbered, making it much easier for people to reference and identify the exact shade of color. Pantone colour selection is critical when choosing colours for litho print management.

27. Warm Colors

This is a hard one, not. Obviously, warm colours are meant to bring warmth, like reds, yellows, oranges, etc. These colours tend to feel happier and bring that summer feeling.

28. Cool Colors

Think winter, like blues, greens, violets. These colours are there to create a somewhat cooler-atmosphere.

29. Color Theory

Quite simple really it’s the theory that different colours make people feel different things. Certain colors tend to evoke certain subconscious emotions and feelings in people – for example, we tend to associate blue with trust and dependability.

30. Gradient

A gradual change in color from one tone into another. Two common types of gradients are the linear gradient where each color sits on opposite sides of the frame, and a radial gradient where one color sits in the middle, and another at the edge