Do you find yourself needing to work with a graphic designer for the first time? Perhaps you are a new business owner and need branding, website and stationery. Don’t get stuck on the lingo.

Every industry has its own language, to some degree, and graphic design is no different. Here is a list of some graphic design terms for newbies to know. While this is not an exhaustive list of graphic design terms, it is a great place to start. Read on to find out what you should know:


Also known as the four-color process, this abbreviation stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key [key, refers to black]. This is a color model that refers to the four inks used in some color printing.


This abbreviation stands for red, green and blue. It?s a color mode for all images shown through an electronic display, such as a computer or television.


The process of adjusting the spacing between specific characters in a font helps you to create proportional and balanced typography.


This is where your printed piece will be cut down to its correct size. It represents the final dimensions of your project.


This refers to the area outside the trim that still prints in case the cuts are not exact. It gives the printer a small amount of space to account for the movement of the paper and design inconsistencies. Bleed, in most cases is 3mm, all the way around the document.


A rough version of your design that is often created as a pencil sketch, but it can be digital as well.


This term refers to the little edges that stick out from letters in certain typefaces. For example, at the end of the letter ?T? at the top left, right and at the base of the letter. Common serif fonts include Times, Perpetua, Georgia and Garamond.

Sans serif

A style of typeface in which there are no small lines at the end of each character stroke. Common sans serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica and Gothic.

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum is a form of ?filler? used as a placeholder for text in a design. This scrambled Latin text allows designers to create design layouts without having access to the final written copy.


A system for grouping the type based on the order of its importance so the reader can easily navigate through the content.


Resolution is the image quality in the design based on dots per inch for printed works and pixels per inch for digital work. The higher the resolution, the crisper the photos will be.


An organized framework with even columns and rows that helps designers to align design elements in a more efficient and accurate way.

Vector graphic

An image made up of paths and curves (vectors) rather than a grid of pixels. Unlike raster images, these are able to be enlarged without losing image quality. Vector graphic file extensions include .EPS, .AI, .SVG and .DRW.


Defines a display space and the color for each pixel or ?bit? in the display space. It is characterized by the number of pixels and the information content per pixel.


A JPEG is an example of a graphic image file type that contains bitmaps. It is created for compressing full-color or grey-scale digital images of real-world scenes. It was not designed for lettering or cartoons.


The smallest unit of a digital image or graphic that can be displayed and represented on a digital display device.


Similar to, yet importantly different from kerning, tracking is adjusting the spacing throughout an entire word. Once kerning has been used to determine the right spacing between each letter, tracking can be used to change the spacing equally between every letter at once.


Refers to the intensity of color in an image. Increased saturation causes colors to appear purer while decreased saturation causes colors to appear more washed out.


Tone is the lightness or darkness of a design element. Tone is crucial because it is responsible for creating the contrast between light and dark that will draw maximum attention in a design.

Style guide

A set of design standards for a specific brand to ensure complete consistency in the style and formatting of design assets. This often includes guidelines for color schemes, typefaces and how logos are used and placed within an asset, among others.


Also known as a widow, this term refers to the words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph. These words are isolated from the rest of the content, often causing an unwanted focal point.


A realistic representation of how the design will look; a scale or full-size model of the design used to demonstrate, promote and validate the design. This can also be referred to as a ?proof.?

Negative space

The space surrounding the words and shapes in your design. Some designers choose to use the negative space to create an additional design, like the arrow found between the ?E? and the ?X? of the FedEx logo.


This is the art of using typefaces to communicate. This skill encompasses both the typefaces and the negative space surrounding them.

We hope you have found this of some help to starting your conversation with your selected designer. Good luck but any good designer will understand you are not familiar with all the terminology and help you understand what they are taking about. Like us here at Reform Creative!

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