150 DESIGN TERMS

FOR NON-DESIGNERS

Ever felt like you and your designer were speaking two different languages? Chances are your designer may have washed a wave of terms over you that had you saying… what?!

We’ve gathered a list of commonly used terms so you can better understand design lingo, and as a bonus, you’ll discover how to feedback like a pro.

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A comprehensive glossary of design terms to feedback like a pro.

A

AI File
If your designer asks you for an AI file, they’re asking you for an Adobe Illustrator file.  Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Inc.

Align
To place or arrange (things) in a straight line.  Things can be left, centre, top, bottom, or right-aligned.  

Anchor aka Anchor Link
An anchor link is a link on a page that brings you to a specific place on that page. Anchor links can be helpful when you want to bring a website visitor to a specific spot on a page. 

Adobe
Adobe Systems Incorporated is an American multinational computer software company headquartered in San Jose, California.

After Effects – Adobe
Adobe After Effects is a digital visual effect, motion graphics, and compositing application developed by Adobe Systems and used in the post-production process of film making, video games and television production.

.AE FILE
If your designer asks you for an AE file, they’re asking you for an After Effects working file.  

Artboard
The artboard is the “canvas” that your designs create your artwork on in Adobe Illustrator. The designer can make it any size you like and can create multiple artboards.

Animation
the technique of photographing successive drawings or positions of puppets or models to create an illusion of movement when the film is shown as a sequence.

Assets
A catch-all term referring to all materials needed to successfully complete a project. In terms of design, it typically refers to the text content, graphics, photographs, videos, and audio files.

Audience
Is the intended audience or readership of a publication, advertisement, or other messages. In marketing and advertising, it is a particular group of consumers within the predetermined target market, identified as the targets or recipients for a particular advertisement or message.

B

Background
The part of a scene or picture that is farthest from the viewer: the part of a scene that is behind a main figure or object in a painting, photograph or design. 

Bold
A set of type characters that are darker and heavier than normal

Bleed
In printing, bleed is printing that goes beyond the edge of where the sheet will be trimmed. In other words, the bleed is the area to be trimmed off.

Bullets
In typography, a bullet or bullet point (•) is a typographical symbol or glyph used to introduce items in a list.

Blur
It means the same thing it does in any other profession – out of focus, unclear, smeared.

Brief
Effective marketing briefs streamline the process and paint a clear picture of your marketing objectives and goals. The process of writing the brief helps walk you through the campaign in your mind and identify problems or opportunities.

Bounding Box
Bounding Box. A rectangular border around an image, shape, or text that you can drag to move, transform, rotate, or scale.

Bottom Align
A term used to align content or an object to the bottom of the page or bottom of the parent element.

Block Text
Is often mistook for Justified text, when you want your content to fill the space evenly like a newspaper. 

C

Canvas
Canvas (GUI) In computer science and visualization, a canvas is a container that holds various drawing elements (lines, shapes, text, frames containing other elements, etc.)

Capitalise
To capitalise is to put something in capital letters, particularly the first letters, Like This.

Campaign
An advertising campaign is a series of advertisement messages that share a single idea and theme which make up an integrated marketing communication

Comic Sans
This is not a design term.  Say this to your designer at your own peril.

Copy

  1. a thing made to be similar or identical to another.
  2. Copy is written material, in contrast to photographs or other elements of layout, in contents such as magazines, advertising, and books. In advertising, web marketing and similar fields, copy refers to the output of copywriters, who are employed to write material which encourages consumers to buy goods or services.

Center
Center alignment as it states is aligned to a centerline down the middle or across the horizontal. Alignment is often an invisible line visual elements are aligned to but can also be hinted at physically.

Concept
Conceptual design is an early phase of the design process, in which the broad outlines of function and form of something are articulated. It includes the design of interactions, experiences, processes, and strategies.

Crop
Cropping is the removal of unwanted outer areas from a photographic or illustrated image. … Depending on the application, this can be performed on a physical photograph, artwork, or film footage, or it can be achieved digitally by using image editing software.

CMYK
The CMYK colour model is a subtractive colour model, based on the CMY colour model, used in colour printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four ink plates used in some colour printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key

Cursive
Cursive is a style of writing in which all the letters in a word are connected.

CSS
Cascading Style Sheets is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language like HTML. CSS is a cornerstone technology of the World Wide Web, alongside HTML and JavaScript.

CTA

short for call to action.

“your CTA may be the most important part of your display ad, because it tells consumers what you want them to do”

Closed-Captions
Closed captioning and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information.

D

Draft
See concept.

Deep Etch or Deep Etching
Deep-etching is a graphic design term used to describe the process of removing a specific section of a photograph or image from its background so that it stands alone. This means that you can use just that part in a different way or on a different background.

Deadline
the latest time or date by which something should be completed.

E

Explainer

An explainer video is a short-form video usually used for marketing or sales purposes that highlights a company’s product, service, or business idea in a
compelling and efficient way. Most businesses host explainer videos on their landing pages or feature them on the homepage of their website

EPS
EPS is a file extension for a graphics file format used in vector-based images in Adobe Illustrator. EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. … It also usually contains a bit map version of the image for simpler viewing rather than the vector instructions to draw the image.

Eyedropper
The Eyedropper tool lets you sample colours from placed images. Move the Eyedropper cursor over the colour of a placed graphic.

F

Frame
In the computer world, a frame can be many different things. … In video and animation, frames are individual pictures in a sequence of images. For example, a Flash movie you see on the Web may play 12 frames per second, creating the appearance of motion. Most video is shot at 24 or 30 frames per second or FPS.

Figma
Figma is an interface design application that runs in the browser–but it’s actually much more than that.

Font
A font is the combination of typeface and other qualities, such as size, pitch, and spacing. For example, Times Roman is a typeface that defines the shape of each character.

Foreground
It is the closest thing to the viewer. The background is the ground or parts, as of a scene, situated in the rear. It is opposite of the foreground. Objects in the foreground are more noticeable to the viewer.

G

GIF
a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images.

  • “a GIF image”

Gradient
Gradients, also known as colour transitions, are a gradual blending from one colour to another colour (or, if you’re in a colourful mood, from one colour to another colour to another colour).

Gaussian Blur
In image processing, a Gaussian blur is a result of blurring an image by a Gaussian function. It is a widely used effect in graphics software, typically to reduce image noise and reduce detail.

Grids
In graphic design, a grid is a structure (usually two-dimensional) made up of a series of intersecting straight (vertical, horizontal, and angular) or curved lines (grid lines) used to structure content.

H

Host
A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed in the Internet.

High-Resolution Files
High-resolution JPEG files are used to store large images in a way that prevents too much leaking, or loss, of image details. The format is used by print publications, which have a minimum requirement of 300 dpi (dots per inch).

Hyperlink
a link from a hypertext document to another location, activated by clicking on a highlighted word or image.  This can be both web and print materials. 

Hyphenate
Specify the minimum number of characters at the beginning or end of a word that can be broken by a hyphen.

Hex Colour
A HEX colour is expressed as a six-digit combination of numbers and letters defined by its mix of red, green and blue (RGB). Basically, a HEX colour code is shorthand for its RGB values with a little conversion gymnastics in between.

HTML
Hypertext Markup Language, a standardized system for tagging text files to achieve font, colour, graphic, and hyperlink effects on World Wide Web pages.

  • “an HTML file”

I

InDesign – Adobe
Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing and typesetting software application produced by Adobe Systems. It can be used to create works such as posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, presentations, books and ebooks.

Illustrator – Adobe
Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Inc. Originally designed for the Apple Macintosh, development of Adobe Illustrator began in 1985. Along with Creative Cloud, Illustrator CC was released.

Indent
Indents move text inward from the right and left edges of the frame. In general, use first‑line indents, not spaces or tabs, to indent the first line of a paragraph

Italics
Italic font is a slightly slanted font that is used to set text apart. Italic font is a style of a typeface. Fonts are the many styles of type used in writing and printing

Icon
Icon design is the process of designing a graphic symbol that represents some real, fantasy or abstract motive, entity or action.

Illustration
Many people do not distinguish graphic design from illustration. For them, both are more or less the same. But there is in fact a clear difference between the two. … Graphic design is more about communicating with a target audience, while illustration is concerned mostly about a creative interpretation.

J

JPG
JPEG is a commonly used method of lossy compression for digital images, particularly for those images produced by digital photography. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality.

Justify
Justification is the structuring of the top, bottom, sides, or middle of text or graphic elements on a page to align the text against one or more specific baseline markers — usually the left or right margin, or both.

K

Kerning
In typography, kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result. Kerning adjusts the space between individual letterforms, while tracking (letter-spacing) adjusts spacing uniformly over a range of characters.

L

Layers
Layers are like sheets of stacked acetate. You can see through transparent areas of a layer to the layers below. You move a layer to position the content on the layer, like sliding a sheet of acetate in a stack. You can also change the opacity of a layer to make content partially transparent.

Left Align
Left align, left alignment, or left justify is text or page formatting that aligns text along the left side of a page or containing element. This text has a ragged right edge because it is left-aligned instead of being right-aligned

Letter-spacing
In typography, letter-spacing, also referred to as tracking by typographers, refers to an optically consistent degree of increase of space between letters to affect visual density in a line or block of text. Letter-spacing should not be confused with kerning.

Line-height
Line-height is the vertical distance between lines of text. On the web, it is an equal amount of space above and below text on a line [fig. 1]. Leading in desktop publishing, however, is the amount of space below a line of text. In CSS, the line-height property can take numeric or percentage values.

Logo
a symbol or other small design adopted by an organization to identify its products, uniform, vehicles, etc. “the Olympic logo was emblazoned across the tracksuits”

M

Make it POP!
This is often a term that makes designers cringe.  If you have a relatively relaxed designer use this term to stir the pot. 

Margin
Margin is a page layout term used in both print and Web publishing. In print , margin refers to page borders and on Web it describes the spacing between elements on a webpage.

Mask
In graphic design, a mask is a tool that allows you to protect a specific area of an image from modification. Conversely, an inverse mask allows anything outside the mask to be modified by the application of an effect.

Master Pages & Template
Master pages are a tool that you can use to keep a consistent layout among the pages in your document or website. They work as little templates that help you to share different elements with pages in your document.

Mock-up
A mockup is a prototype if it provides at least part of the functionality of a system and enables testing of a design

Motion Graphics
Motion graphics are used when there’s no need for narrative or storytelling. Motion graphic videos can break down your complex services or products and present them in a memorable way.

N

Negative Space
Negative space is the space around and between the subject of an image. Negative spaces are actual shapes that share edges with the positive shape. Just as important as the object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of the positive space and brings balance to a composition.

O

Opacity
Opacity (pronounced “o-PASS-ity”) refers to the opaqueness of an object. In computing, opacity is often used in graphics software to define how “nontransparent” an image is. In other words, the more transparent an image or image layer is, the lower its opacity.

P

Package
Any images or graphics used are not saved in the document. … When you package a file, you create a folder that contains the InDesign document (or documents in a book file), any necessary fonts, linked graphics, text files, and a customized report.

Paste
Cut or copy text in another application or in an InDesign document

Paste Special
Paste Special is a feature gives you more control of how the content is displayed or functions when pasted from the clipboard. Paste special is a common feature in productivity software such as Microsoft Office.

Paste in Place
If you’ve ever used Paste in Place in InDesign or Flash, you know what it does, preserving object coordinates when pasting (e.g. copy something in the upper-left corner, then paste it in just the same spot, even in other documents).

Paste without formatting
Pasting text without formatting means the text based on where it’s placed will take on the current style and formatting associated.  This option is almost always best when pasting from one document to another. 

Padding
Padding goes around all four sides of the content and you can target and change the padding for each side (just like a margin)

Pattern
Pattern can be described as a repeating unit of shape or form, but it can also be thought of as the “skeleton” that organizes the parts of a composition.

Pantone
a system for matching colours, used in specifying printing inks.

  • “Pantone colours”

Pen Tool
The Pen tool is the most powerful tool in Illustrator. It allows you to define your own anchor points, as well as adjust the curve associated with those anchors, simply by manipulating two control points associated with each anchor.

PSD
PSD stands for Photoshop Document and is the native file type created by the Adobe image editing application, Photoshop.

Photoshop
Photoshop is Adobe’s photo editing, image creation and graphic design software. The software provides many image editing features for raster (pixel-based) images as well as vector graphics.

Prepress
This term refers to the process of creating a print layout and performing all the steps that lead to the final print project. A digital prepress machine accepts information electronically and transforms the data onto a printing plate which is ultimately used to transfer your files onto paper while on press.

Premiere – Adobe
Adobe Premiere Pro is a timeline-based video editing app developed by Adobe Systems and published as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud licensing program

PDF
The Portable Document Format is a file format developed by Adobe in the 1990s to present documents, including text formatting and images, in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems.

Pixel
a minute area of illumination on a display screen, one of many from which an image is composed. “the camera scans photographs and encodes the image into pixels”

Pixel – Facebook
The Facebook pixel is code that you place on your website. It collects data that helps you track conversions from Facebook ads, optimize ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website

PNG
PNG was developed as an improved, non-patented replacement for Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

Print Ready
Print-Ready is a term used to describe a file that has all the specifications necessary to produce high-resolution printed output, without requiring any additional alteration or intervention. In other words, a commercial printer can use the file “as submitted” to successfully create the desired print materials.

Photo
Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

Pre-header aka Eye Brow
My preheader gets defined by the header template; the first text content that appears is in the header and is the website name/logo, creating redundancy in the email design.

Q

Quark
QuarkXPress is a desktop publishing software for creating and editing complex page layouts in a WYSIWYG environment. It runs on macOS and Windows.  Popular in the 90s, its rarely used by designers.

R

RAW File
A camera RAW image is an unprocessed photograph captured with a digital camera. It contains the raw image data captured by the camera’s sensor (or CCD), saved in proprietary file format specific to the camera manufacturer. … Because Camera RAW files are uncompressed, they take up more space than typical JPEG images.

Raster File
Raster graphics are best used for non-line art images; specifically digitized photographs scanned artwork or detailed graphics.

Render
The term render comes from the graphics world where rendering is an artist’s drawing of what a new structure would look like. In computer-aided design (CAD), a rendering is a particular view of a 3D model that has been converted into a realistic image.

Retouching
Photo retouching is the process of altering an image to prepare it for final presentation. … Usually completed after globalized adjustments (such as colour correction), retouching is the polishing of an image.

Retina 
Retina ready refers to a screen on a device that has a high enough pixel density that the human eye can’t make out individual pixels. … A Retina display device, displaying a website that serves Retina ready images (higher resolution) will display sharper images and brighter, more vivid colours.

Responsive
Responsive web design is an approach to web design that makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes.

RGB
RGB (red, green, and blue) refers to a system for representing the colours to be used on a computer display. Red, green, and blue can be combined in various proportions to obtain any colour in the visible spectrum.

Ruler
Ruler guides are different from grids in that they can be positioned freely on a page or on a pasteboard. … A ruler guide is displayed or hidden with the layer on which it was created

Rotate
The negative value of the pivot point (rotation angle) rotates an object in a clockwise direction. When the object is rotated, then every point of the object is rotated by the same angle. 

S

Sans Serif Fonts
A category of typefaces that do not use serifs, small lines at the ends of characters. Popular sans serif fonts include Helvetica, Avant Garde, Arial, and Geneva

Serif Fonts
Serif fonts were often used in the past as they work particularly well for the printed word – the small strokes projecting from the main stroke of each character (the serif) helps letters to stand out clearly, which makes the brain recognize words and letters more readily.

Sentence Case
Sentence case is the conventional way of using capital letters in a sentence or capitalizing only the first word and any proper nouns.

Scale
Scale is the size of one object in relation to the other objects in a design or artwork. Proportion refers to the size of the parts of an object in relationship to other parts of the same object. Throughout the centuries, designers have used scale and proportion to depict or distract from the ideal.

Script Font
In a nutshell, you can define script font as a font that mimics cursed handwriting. It is a typeface with a personal touch like calligraphy and handwriting fonts

Sharpen
Sharpening enhances the definition of edges in an image. Whether your images come from a digital camera or a scanner, most images can benefit from sharpening

SLA
A service-level agreement is a commitment between a service provider and a client. Particular aspects of the service – quality, availability, responsibilities – are agreed between the service provider and the service user.

Subscript
(of a letter, figure, or symbol) written or printed below the line.

Superscript
(of a letter, figure, or symbol) written or printed above the line.

Sub-header
The definition of a subheading is a title of a subdivision of something written.

Swatch
The Swatches panel lets you create and name colours, gradients, or tints, and quickly apply them to your document.

Strong
Strong element in web design is for content that is of greater importance, it’s used to draw attention to text.

SVG
Scalable Vector Graphics is an Extensible Markup Language-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics with support for interactivity and animation.

T

Template
A design template or template is a file that is created with an overall layout to be used with one or more documents. For example, a program may have a template for a resume.

Text
Typography may be defined as the theory and practice of letter and typeface design. In other words, it is an art concerned with design elements that can be applied to the letters and text (as opposed to, say, images, tables, or other visual enhancements) on a printed page.

Trim
The final size of a printed page after excess edges have been cut off is the trim size.

Timeline – Animation
The Timeline panel is one of the main panels used for creating animations. … It indicates the current frame that is being displayed, moving as the animation or composition is played.

Timeline – Project
A timeline is a chronological order of events. In most cases, it is a line with dates, events or actions. It is very important for project managers to develop skills to build an accurate timeline.

Turnaround
the process of completing or the time needed to complete a task, especially one involving receiving something, processing it, and sending it out again.

  • “a seven-day turnaround”

Transparency
Transparency in 2D design is simply the quality of being able to see through (or partially see-through) one or more layers in an artwork.

Typography
Typography may be defined as the theory and practice of letter and typeface design. In other words, it is an art concerned with design elements that can be applied to the letters and text (as opposed to, say, images, tables, or other visual enhancements).

Top Align
Top-aligned text is aligned so that the top line of text is flush with the top margin.

U

Underline
An underline is a section of text in a document where the words have a line running beneath them.

UX
User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users

UI
User interface (UI) design is the process of making interfaces in software or computerized devices with a focus on looks or style.

Upper case
capital letters as opposed to small letters (lower case).

  • “the keywords must be in upper case”

URL
the address of a World Wide Web page.

  • “type a URL into a browser’s address bar”

V

Video
the recording, reproducing, or broadcasting of moving visual images.

  • “it’s a great option for anyone looking to start using video to talk over the Net”

Vector File
Vector files are images that are built by mathematical formulas that establish points on a grid and can be stretched without losing overall quality. 

W

Working File
If someone asks you for a working file, they’re generally asking for the default file extension for the software that created the digital artwork.

Web-safe
Web-safe, or Browser-safe palettes as they are also referred to, consist of 216 colors that display solid, non-dithered, and consistent* on any computer monitor, or Web browser, capable of displaying at least 8-bit color (256 colors).

Weight
The weight of a particular font is the thickness of the character outlines relative to their height. A typeface may come in many weights, from ultra-light to extra-bold or black.

WordPress
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system written in PHP and paired with a MySQL or MariaDB database. Features include a plugin architecture and a template system, referred to within WordPress as Themes. 

X

X-Axis
the principal or horizontal axis of a system of coordinates, points along which have a value of zero for all other coordinates.

Y

Y-Axis

the secondary or vertical axis of a system of coordinates points along which have a value of zero for all other coordinates.

Z

Zoom
Provides videotelephony and online chat services through a cloud-based peer-to-peer software platform and is used for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education, and social relations.