You probably hear design terms thrown around all the time but you might not know exactly what they mean. CMYK, RGB, CSS, uh what? It is important to know these terms if you are a creative entrepreneur who needs to have their hand in branding. If you are going to be working with a designer or if you are going to be DIYing your own brand, these terms are important. Communication is key when you are trying to translate your brand into words so I hope this design glossary helps!
Images are made up of pixels which are small squares that contains part of the image. These pixels are a fixed size so when you scale an image larger than original size, you are stretching the pixels so the image tends to blur which causes an image to be low resolution. Images from your camera are a raster image and the designs created from Photoshop are raster images.
Vector graphics allow the designer to expand or reduce graphics without losing the quality unlike raster images. Illustrator is a vector program which is why you should design logos in illustrator so you can scale your logo to any size without losing the quality. I create almost all of my designs in Illustrator.
Each color that you select on your computer has a hexadecimal code which is the six digit code so that your computer knows which color to display. A hexadecimal code will look like: #ADADAD or #7D8F70
CMYK stands for Cyan Magenta Yellow and Key (which means black). CMYK is used for colors that are going to be printed. If you are setting up business cards then you are going to want to design them in CMYK mode because printers use a 4 color process and this will ensure that you are going to get the proper color.
Stands for Red, Green, and Blue. Anything that is digital and going to be on the web will be RGB because computer monitors read RGB colors.
Pantone colors are also used for printing. Pantone has created a system across the board so that if you pick a pantone color, your printer can get the ink that matches that pantone color exactly and print the right color. You might see images of a fanned out color booklet that has an assortment of colors… this is a pantone book so that you can match your colors and see how they will print.
If you want to print an image or an art print you are going to want it to be “high resolution” which means that it has more pixels condensed into the given area. High resolution usually refers to 300 DPI and is used mostly for print. High resolution images are more clear and crisp because there are more tiny pixels that make up the whole image.
On the other side of high resolution – there is also low resolution. The lowest resolution that you want to be working with for the web is 72 dpi. Sometimes you can get away with a lower resolution but most of the time you don’t want it to fall below 72.
Different files need to be saved in a certain ways to make sure that they are displayed or printed properly. These are some of the most popular formats
Stands for Portable Document Format and it is an Adobe Software. Pdfs can be used to view digital documents and they can also be used to be sent to your printer. As long as you have the Adobe Software installed you can view pdfs which makes them perfect for content upgrades, workbooks, and ebooks. PDFs can also be made “fillable” so users can type their text into the pdf instead of having to print it and then fill it out.
Images that do not have a transparent background. Jpgs are most common for saving photos. A jpg is also a raster image so you cannot scale a jpg larger than its original size because it will become pixelated.
PNGs are images that allow you to have a transparent background. So most logos on a website should be saved as a png so you can have a transparent background. PNGs file size can be larger than jpgs, so a good way to reduce the file size without losing quality is going to tinypng.com. PNGS also rasterize an image so once your image is a png you cannot scale the image larger or else the image will become pixelated.
This is the file format that you get when you save a working file from Photoshop
EPS stands for Encapsulated Post Script and it is a vector file. Most printers will except an EPS for a print file. EPS can be opened in Illustrator or Photoshop. If you have a logo designed for you, you will want to receive the logo files in EPS or AI.
AI is the file format for Illustrator designs and it is vector based
indd is the file format for working file inside InDesign. InDesign is good for print items or multiple page items such as workbooks.
A brand is not a logo. Your brand is your collection of visions, ideas, concepts, the way you talk, your mission, your vision, what you represent, etc. A brand is not tangible, it is all of the details that make up your company and how others view you.
Brand Identity is the tangible items that extend from your brand and how they represent your brand. These things include your logo, submarks, watermarks, colors, business cards, patterns/texture, your packaging, your stationary, etc. In order to have a strong brand identity you want all of these items to represent what your brand’s core values are and you also want to be consistent across all items.
Colors that you choose to represent your brand. Colors for a brand should range from 3-5 main colors but shouldn’t have more.
Another variation of your logo so that you can place it in places where your logo might not scale properly.
An image with a lower opacity so that you can place over an image as a watermark.
CMS (Content Management System)
A system, like WordPress or Squarespace, that allow you to create your content and posts with no coding knowledge.
The part of your website that the end-user sees when they go to your domain.
This is the term to describe the “dashboard” section of your site where content, pages, and codes go.
Stands for cascading style sheet – which is the coding language that is used to change the design of your website.
FTP is an application that connects to your hosting where all of your files are stored. If you want to DIY your own themes and make changes, you are going to want to know how to access your FTP.
If you are designing something that needs to be printed, it has to have bleed. Bleed is where your image that you are designing extends further than the edge of your design. Confusing? Let me explain… lets say you have a flyer that you need printed, so you design it at 8.5″ x 11″ and send it off to your printer. In the printing world, printers print on a larger white sheet so they can fit more on one sheet, and then they will cut down to the proper size of 8.5″ x 11″. So when the person or machine is cutting down your sheets, the sheets tend to move or shift slightly. If your sheets shift slightly as they cut, you are going to see the white sheet that the printer printed on and if your design is not white, you are going to see this and it will ruin your design. Usually 0.125″ bleed on each side is acceptable but always check with your printer.
Also, just like bleed where you want to extend the image you also want to make sure all text and images are safe from being cut as well on the inside of the page. This is called the margin. If you have text right next to the edge of the sheet and the pages shift, you risk losing that text. Usually 0.125″ margin on each side is acceptable as well.
If you are creating a book and you have a lot of facing pages, space between the two facing pages on the inside is called the gutter. You do not want the pages to be sitting directly next to each other without space because when you bind your book or sheets, the texts will be cut off by the binding. Usually .325″ is good enough for gutter.
Digital printing is a different way than printing compared to offset printing. Digital printing is more similar to a home printer where it takes the digital file and prints it out according. The quality that you get from digital printing is pretty good but offset printing is better and with more preciseness. However, digital printing is cheaper and better for smaller runs because there isn’t a lot of setup that goes into digital printing.
Offset printing is for large run print jobs. These jobs are much more difficult for the printer to setup but the quality is the best.
Die cut is a certain way to cut your designs if they aren’t a traditional square. If you want your business card to be a circle or if you want a specific shape you want to get it die cut. This means you need a die line that tells the printer where they are supposed to cut after an item is printed.
Sans serif fonts are ones that don’t have tails. For example, this font is a san-serif font. Usually used in modern clean designs.
Fonts that have tails on the end of the letters, such as Times New Roman.
Refers to the space between individual letters such as t h i s.
Font weight is the boldness of the font. Most font faces nowadays have light, regular, bold. Changing the font weight causes good contrast which is important in design.
Varying tones of one color. Example: Different shades of purple.
Three colors that are side by side on the color wheel
Two colors that are across from each other on the wheel that cause the greatest contrast such as red and green.
Three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel that form a triangular shape.
A mockup is used to show a person how the end-product will look. Designers use mock ups to showcase how a design will look on ebooks, business cards, notebooks. Mockups help sell the product by giving a person a visual idea of how the product will look even if the product is digital.
Pretty straightforward but this term refers to the white space that does not have any text or image on a page. One mistake that new designers make is not having enough white space. Design needs to breathe so you want there to be plenty of white space.
Icons are small, simple, graphics that symbolize other things. Such as a little shopping cart icon symbolizes your shopping cart or an icon of a home symbolizes the home page of a website.
Infographics are images that are created to display information. Easy right? Usually infographics are an awesome way to display lots of statistics of a certain subject.
I call this the working file. Its the file that you are working on where you are creating your design, so If I have a file in Illustrator and I save it as an AI file, that is more source file. If I use that illustrator file and export a jpg from it, that jpg is not the source file. The source file is the file that you should be able to go back to and continue working without losing any information.
Stock Photography are images that photographers put up for sell and they can be purchased over and over again. The good thing about stock photography is that you don’t have to go out and purchase your own expensive equipment but you can still get high quality photos. The downside to stock photography is that other people on the internet can be buying that same image and using it on their website and this can cause conflict with your branding.
I hope this design glossary helps! Leave a comment if you have any other terms that you are unsure of!