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Designer Speak: Find Out What the Terminology Designers Use Really Means and Make Your Design Projects Easier

Designers often use a lot of lingo that many non-designers don’t understand, which means things can get complicated with your project if a designer is asking for something you know nothing about.

If you have a foundation for what certain terms mean, it’ll make your project go a lot more smoothly. And, because we’re living in an era where visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared, we all need to be a designer of sorts, especially if you’re creating some of your own content on Canva or another DIY photo editing site.

So,I’m going to break down some common terms for you to improve your understanding of design. Here we go.


Typography is the visual display of text. It’s what your words look like on paper, a screen, a billboard, etc. What you’re reading here is typography.


Typeface is a series of fonts that include numbers, letters, punctuation marks, characters, etc. For example, Times Roman and Garamond fonts fall within the Serif typeface.


Serif typefaces have extra strokes or curves at the end of letters.

Sans Serif

Sans means “without,” so sans serif is a typeface without extra strokes or curves at the end of the letters. Examples of Sans Serif would be Arial, Verdana, or AvantGarde


Slab is a type of Serif font that is more geometrical in shape. It features bolder characters and square shapes. An example of Slab is Museo Slab.


Script is a form of typeface based off of modern or historical handwriting styles. Alex Brush is an example of a script typeface.

Body Copy

Body copy is simply the main part of text in a document, website, advertisement, etc. Within this blogpost, what you’re reading now is considered the body copy.


Kerning is the space between characters in your type. For example, if I type the word Hello without kerning, it’s very close together. With Kerning, it might like this: H e l l o.


EPS is short for Encapsulated Post Script. It’s one of the best formats for high resolution illustration printing. It’s also a vector file format that’s used to transfer post script documents that contain an image with another post script document.


Jpg is a file extension that is most popular with digital photography. It stands for joint pictures expert group, and it handles colors really well and various levels of lossy compression (lossy compression simply means that some of the data within the original file is discarded when the image is compressed).


PNG (pronounced ping) is another format for image file compression. It uses a different compression algorithm than JPG which keeps all of the image data, but usually makes the file size larger than with JPG.


PDF stands for portable document format and is a format that allows for an electronic image of text or graphics to look like a printed document.


Bleed is printing that extends beyond the edge that will be trimmed, so there is no white line or unprinted edge on a final document.

Crop Marks

Crop marks are lines that are printed on a document that indicate where the document should be trimmed after it’s printed.

Safe Zone

The safe zone is where artwork is safe to remain unchanged. It means it won’t be altered during the trimming or placement process.


Resolution is the number of pixels a monitor can display at once. If more pixels can be displayed, it would be considered high resolution. If less, than it’s a lower resolution.


The sharpness of an image is described as dots per inch ( dpi) and the dot would be the pixel.

300 dpi

This means that the image would have 300 pixels per inch.


Leading is the amount of vertical spacing between text.


Tracking is the space between every letter in a word to adjust how dense a large block of text looks. This is not the same as kerning which deals with the spacing of individual letters.


An orphan line occurs when the first line of a paragraph shows at the end of a page with the rest of the paragraph appearing at the beginning of the next page.


A widow is a single line at the bottom of a page or column.

Pull Quote

A quotation taken from the main text that is pulled out to grab attention. It is often in a distinct typeface or placed within a graphic or as a subheadline.


A palette is the range of available colors that can be displayed on a device or interface.


CMYK is the color model used in traditional methods of printing that refers to the primary colors of pigment. It’s a four color model that stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (or black).


RGB is a color model that is used in printing that refers to the primary colors of light. It stands for Red, Green, and Blue.


Pantone is a standardized system of matching colors so that it’s easier for designers in different locations to match a color by giving a Pantone number.


A gradient is a gradual blend between two or more colors.


Opacity is the amount of color or tone in an image. It can range from transparent ( which is 0% opacity) to opaque ( which is 100% opacity).


Brand is how a business is perceived by its customers.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is the collection of elements that create your brand image.


A brand mark is the elements—such as colors, picture, design, and symbols—that isn’t expressed in words.


A logotype is essentially a word mark or a logo for the company that is expressed as the brand name styled in a certain type.

White Space

White space is the space on a page left unmarked. It could be the space between graphics, margins, gutters, and body copy.

Foil Stamping

Foil stamping is a commercial printing process that uses heart or pressure to stamp metallic or pigmented foil onto a solid surface.

Letter Press

Letter Press is a commercial printing process involving the impression of a raised ink surface against a sheet or roll of paper.

Style Guide

A style guide is the set of standards for the documents and designs of a brand. It includes things such as word usage, tone, colors, fonts, etc.


A vector image is created through commands and mathematical statements that places lines and characters in certain places to create two and three dimensional images.


A mockup is a recreation of a printed material.


A watermark is an identifying image that is printed over top of a design in various shades of lightness or darkness.

And there you have it—the definitions for some most commonly used design terms. I hope this helps you with your own DIY projects, and—as always—if you need some design help, feel free to reach out to me via the contact page.