Glossary of Design Terms

Design Glossary

Ever felt like your creative agency was speaking another language?

There are lots of terms used in design that make perfect sense to the designers, but may leave clients scratching their heads. Here are a few of the most used terms explained, which should help you to decipher this secret language:

Adobe Suite

A collection of programmes used for designing, including Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Files saved in these programmes appear as .psd (Photoshop), .indd (InDesign) and .ai (Illustrator).



The final version of work that has been fully checked and is ready for print.



An extension of the artwork past what will be the final visible area, which prevents a white line appearing around the edge when it’s cut out. 3mm is usually the standard size bleed around each edge of the artwork.


Body Copy

The main section of text, not including headlines.



An abbreviation for the colours used in four colour printing; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black).


Crop Marks

Lines or marks around artwork, indicating where it will be trimmed or cut-out.


Display Type

Larger type used for headings.



Dots per inch - refers to the resolution of an image, the higher the DPI the better the quality and sharpness of an image.


Drop Shadow

An effect which creates a shadow underneath/around an image, text or object.



The process of stamping a design into paper or card to produce a raised effect.



Encapsulated PostScript - a digital file format, often used for logos which can be increased to any size without loss of quality. An EPS is able to have a transparent background.



Saving a file to a different format so it can be opened by alternative programs.



A collection of characters in a certain style, which create a typeface.



Graphic interchange format - generally used for the web, a GIF is an image file that has a small file size and as a result is low quality. A GIF file can have a transparent background and can also be used for simple web animations.



An effect which allows the smooth transition between two or more colours.



The space between columns of type.



Opening a file with an application to edit or amend it.



An image file type, the quality and size of which depends on the compression of the image. A JPEG will always have a coloured background and cannot be transparent.



A general guide showing where the image and text will be placed.



This is the space between lines of type, measured from the baseline of successive lines.


Low-resolution/ Low-res / Lo-res

An image which is low resolution i.e. the quality and sharpness of the image is poor and generally not

suitable for print.



The space between individual characters in a typeface, usually changed for aesthetic purposes.



The space around a block of text or an image which is deliberately left clear.



A rough visual, which gives the an impression of what the final piece will look like.



Use of only one colour, generally black.



The degree to which you can see through an object - the lower the opacity the more see through it is.



A guide to the number of pages and the contents of the pages in a publication.



A registered colour which is premixed to guarantee an exact match whenever it is reproduced, often referred to as a spot colour.



Portable Network Graphic - an image file used for the web, generally higher quality and a larger file size than a GIF. A PNG is able to have a transparent background.


Point Size

Specifically refers to the size of the type, which is measured from the top of the letter to bottom. 1 point is approximately 0.35mm.


Process Colour

A colour made up of a combination of different percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black.



An example of the finished piece - sent to the customer to be checked before being finalised and sent to print.


Raster Graphics

An image which is made up of a number of pixels, usually in a grid format.



The level of detail of an image, based on the number of dots per inch (dpi). 300dpi is the standard for print, 72dpi for web.



Stands for red, green and blue. A colour system used for digital output, opposed to CMYK which is used for print.


Serif / Sans-Serif

A serif font is a typeface that has features on the ends of its strokes e.g. Times New Roman, whereas a sans-serif doesn’t and is ‘without serif’ e.g. Helvetica.



A combination of at least two pages.


Stroke Weight

The thickness of the strokes of a typeface.


Subscript & Superscript

Subscript are small characters set below the normal letters e.g. H2O and superscript are small characters set above e.g. TM.



A layout used as the base for a page design.



An image file type, which is usually higher quality than a JPEG format and is able to have a transparent background.



The space between characters applied across the whole text rather than individually (kerning).


Vector Graphic

A lossless image file which can be expanded to any size without pixelating and losing quality.



This refers to a word at the end of a paragraph which appears on its own on the last line. This is usually remedied by evening out the lengths of the lines above or knocking down the penultimate word in the paragraph to the last line.

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