Cracking The Code: 25 Graphic Design Terms For Non-Designers

June 20, 2022

By: Aakash Shewakaramani

Cracking The Code: 25 Graphic Design Terms For Non-Designers

Have you ever heard graphic design terms and felt totally lost? You’re not alone; jargon from any industry can seem alien and intimidating.

How do you tell a graphic designer you want a certain aspect of your brand logo to stand out? How do you tell them the yellow they’ve used isn’t the right yellow? Why do all designers scoff when you say, “Make it pop, please!”?

The answer is right here in this article, which covers 25 crucial graphic design terms. Get ready because the next time you talk to designers, you’re going to impress them with your vocabulary.

25 Crucial Graphic Design Terms Explained In Simple Words

With clear communication, you can convey precisely what’s on your mind to your graphic designer. Some of these terms will seem obvious, while others might sound absurd.

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Learn them all without any judgment because creators use these graphic design terms to get quality work done fast.

1. White Space

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You probably know what this term means if you’ve ever made a resume. White space is unused real estate on a design canvas. Micro white space is small unused space between design elements, whereas macro white space is large unused space on a frame.

If used smartly, white space can lead viewers’ eyes towards important information. Apple does this expertly by using minimal design elements and leaving nearly the entire canvas blank, barring the product they’re showcasing.

2. Visual Hierarchy

What if we switched the font sizes between the headings and the text? It would look odd, wouldn’t it? Visual hierarchy is the principle of creating an order of importance for certain elements and making them stand out. Designers can do this by working with your brand colors, sizes, fonts, element placement, and more.

The Google homepage uses visual hierarchy excellently by using color and size to give importance to the logo and make it stand out from the other elements.

3. Typography

One of the most important graphic design terms, typography, is a broad principle governing text and letters. Everything from the choice of font to how much space there should be between lines of text falls under typography.

Designers use typography principles to evoke the right responses from viewers. Yes, this means the websites with Comic Sans do it on purpose (or so we hope)!

4. Logotype

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A logotype is a logo encompassing a company’s name instead of using an additional image or graphic. Many high-end fashion brands, like Chanel and Versace, have begun incorporating this in recent times for their storefronts and websites.

5. Logomark

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A logomark is the sole use of an image or graphic without any accompanying text to represent a brand. For example, chances are you looked at this logo and instantly figured out what brand it belongs to — Pepsi. It’s a sign your team is doing excellent branding work if they no longer need text on your logo.

6. Resolution And Pixel

No, this isn’t the annual promise people make to themselves before eventually breaking it. Resolution refers to an image’s clarity and is measured in pixels, which are the building blocks dots of every image.

When someone calls something high-resolution, they mean it has a high pixel count, which lets you zoom in without distorting the image.

7. Monochromatic Color Palette

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A monochromatic palette refers to colors belonging to a particular tone or shade. You can see different shades of the same color family when you open a color wheel or choose a hue for your font in a document editor.

8. Layer

Like your favorite cake, most graphic design visuals are made in layers. Instead of painting on one canvas like offline artists, graphic designers use multiple canvases stacked or layered on top of each other, hence the name.

Layers help designers isolate certain elements of their designs and make quick changes without affecting the entire project.

9. Opacity

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One of the most common graphic design terms, opacity, is another word for the lack of transparency. The more opaque a design is, the less transparent it is. Most design software measures it in percentages, so an image with 50% opacity is half as opaque as it originally was.

10. Scale

Scale is another word used to describe the size of an object. By default, most software sets the scale for all objects to 100%, which represents their original size. Setting the scale to 50% would halve the size of the object, and 200% would make it twice as big.

11. Rule Of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a concept used in filmmaking and photography and can help identify points in a frame to grab viewers’ attention. To implement it in a design, draw an imaginary tic-tac-toe board over your canvas.

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These four intersections can help create interesting compositions and offer an alternative to adding important things in the center of the frame.

12. Script Typeface

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Script typefaces are fonts based on regular and over-the-top cursive handwriting. While the styles vary from font to font, these typefaces can be a great option if you want your final output to have a sophisticated look.

13. Radial Design

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Radial designs are circular, with the center of the frame as the focal point. Many mandalas and psychedelic artists use the radial design principle to create beautiful patterns.

14. Open File

If you’re the type of client who works with multiple graphic designers, you might get asked for an open file. No, you don’t have to buy a physical file, open it, and give it to your designer.

One of the most commonly used graphic design terms, this is a colloquium for an editable document, which designers can use to create and edit artwork. Adobe’s open files are the industry standard.

15. Favicon

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A common logo variation, favicons are the tiny website logos on the address bar of your internet browser. If you’re wondering how these icons got their name, the answer is simple: it’s the short form of ‘favorite icon’!

16. Lorem Ipsum

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The most commonly used placeholder text is Lorem Ipsum, which shows what a paragraph would look like with a particular typeface. Written in Latin, it is derived from De finibus bonorum et malorum, but the words were cut and jumbled up to make it completely meaningless.

17. Aspect Ratio

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The aspect ratio is a two-dimensional ratio of the width and height of a canvas, image, or design. When written as x:y, the first number usually represents the width. For example, a 16:9 ratio would mean the design is landscape in nature, whereas a 9:16 ratio would mean it is a portrait.

18. Storyboard

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A storyboard is a collection of sketches for every shot of a film or animation. Your illustrators and graphic designers use it as a reference to create the final digital artwork. A storyboard saves time and keeps big changes from being made to the animation in the future.

19. Color Palette

A color palette is the deliberate selection of a group of colors for an artwork. It gives consistency to a design and prevents designers from veering off and adding random hues to every additional element unless it’s intentional.

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For example, FedEx leans heavily on purple and orange, which are used across all its branding activities.

20. Texture

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One of the most used graphic design terms, texture is used to refer to visual richness. It helps evoke an illusion of touch and makes a design look less flat. For example, it adds a furry layer to fuzzy doggos and makes the earth look grainy to give it a rugged feel.

21. Moodboard

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A moodboard is an assemblage of visuals serving as references and inspiration for a project. They’re used by designers to refer to the mood, aesthetics, tone, art style, and color palette. Pinterest’s entire website is a collection of moodboards for anyone to see.

22. Saturation

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Saturation is a measure of how vivid each color of a design piece is. High saturation allows every color to stand out and look intense. Low saturation gives a dull look to the overall image, which can be used to express sadness.

23. Bleed

Don't you hate it when you print a beautiful piece of art and the paper has white edges that you have to cut off? ‘Bleeding’ your design beyond the edges in your software fixes this. Bleed is important because there will always be an incongruence between printers and design software.

24. Serif & Sans Serif

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Serifs are strokes or accents on the edges of certain typefaces. Sans Serif typefaces don’t have these strokes, which gives the fonts a sleek and modern look. Hold your horses, you don’t need to mourn the loss of serif fonts yet. Studies have found Serif easier to read, so both the typefaces are here to stay!

25. Copy

No, this does not refer to the copy-paste function or copying someone’s art (that’s illegal)! Copy is all the text in your designs, which includes headings, paragraphs, and everything in between.

Will These Graphic Design Terms Make You A Master Artist?

No, they won’t, but these graphic design terms will make you a better communicator. These terms may seem frivolous at first glance, but they can help you save a round of feedback or more.

These are 25 of the hundreds of terms designers use on a daily basis. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to tell your graphic designer exactly what you want for your next masterpiece.

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