The Designer’s Glossary of Terms

Communication is the key to successful marketing. That starts with the agency and the client, the graphic designer/art director and account management to get it right. Speaking the same lingo helps. Since the GD/AD invested in years of expensive art school education to become the consummate professional that they are, it’s probably best to use the terms they learned. This handy The Designer’s Glossary of Terms will help.

ape and talk bubbleFont – A kind of lettering, a style, Helvetica, Myriad, Arel, Times New Roman, are examples. AKA Type, not to be confused with copy, which is what the writer wrote in a Word Doc.

Font size – In this case size does matter, it’s the size the font/character is, measured in points, copy is typically between 10-12 points, Subheads, Headlines, Display type tend to be larger than the copy.

Tracking – The space between a pair of characters in a line.

Kerning – Similar to tracking, but just the space between a pair of characters.

Leading – The space between lines. For online purposes leading is called line height.

Baseline Shift – Raising or lowering a word, letter or group of words from the baseline.

Super Script – A tiny baseline-shifted font size usually used for footnotes, TM, ©, ®. Hard to read. See baseline.

Fibonacci – An Italian math dude who popularized the Golden ratio by mathematically describing the perfect formula for composition, used for layouts in college.

Grid – A design formula using a grid pattern creating a formatted look between pages. The Swiss graphic designers loved the grid. See Swiss Style.

Swiss Style – AKA International Style. Emerging in Russia, Germany and the Netherlands, was a modernist design style that was popularized by Swiss graphic designers in the 1950’s. Not to be confused with Swizz Beatz, record producer, DJ and rapper. Swiss Style used to be taught in Art College, probably not anymore.

Irony – A device where bad design is actually good.

Style Guide – Sometimes called a Brand Guide, is generally an explanation of the graphic guidelines for a company’s graphic identity; regarding fonts, color, logo usage and other requirements. Often not provided upon the commencement of a job.

I.D. – Graphic identity, logos, color use, usually explained in the Style Guide if you ever get one.

Logos – Something all clients should provide. Usually furnished (after several email requests) as a PNG.

Style Sheet – Formatting in Adobe InDesign to make work flow smother. A list that grows as files get repurposed and/or passed around among various designers.

Comp – Short for composition, how you’d like a thing to look, generally used to pitch ideas and/or get approvals, sometimes to see how a design will look in a particular situation e.g. placed in a magazine, assembled as a book.

Mock-up – Similar to a comp, more specific to usage.

Thumbnail – A small quick visual note, rough idea/layout, meant only for the eyes of the designer to visualize the idea. Pen on paper.

Layout – Generally done on the computer using Adobe Creative Cloud design software. In the olden days, with marker pens, cut and paste Xerox’ed® elements, etc. In the really old days, frigg’n pastels (colored chalk) was used, which was replaced by gauche.

Paste-up – No one does that shit anymore, move along, just some folks with permanently hunched backs and X-acto® knife scars on their fingers. Same for mechanicals and Rubylith.

Spray Mount – Glue you spray from a can, will cause cancer, don’t use in enclosed spaces. Avoid, it will kill you.

PNG, PNG, GIF – Bitmapped images for the web. Very lossy if enlarged over 101%. BTW GIF should be pronounced Giff like Gift without the “t” sound, not Jiff, while Oxford says both are correct, Steve Wilhite doesn’t get to dictate it’s pronunciation, LOL.

Vector – Denoting a type of graphical representation using lines to construct the outlines of objects. Can be enlarged at will with no loss of image quality. Great for Logos, charts, and graphic-based images. JPG, PNG, GIF dropped into an illustrator document and saved as an .eps or .ai file is not the same. The web version is a .svg file, not widely used, but should be. Best thing for exporting JPG, PNG, and GIFs.

Budget – Something that’s very hard to get up front, until you bid a project and never hear back from the prospective client, at which point you realize that you exceeded the budget.

Deadline – Generally an arbitrary date set sometime in the future, whereas, you’re expected to deliver the product. Extensions are rarely granted, and moving up the deadline is a constant threat, usually triggered by a client leaving for a vacation.

Responsive Design – A principle that any site you design should employ. It means a site that is optimized for screen size, and looks consistent across various devices and browser platforms.

UX – User Experience, a term used for web and mobile experiences where the user in considered in the planning stages of design. Something there is not enough of.

Account Executive – The ago-between agency/firm and client. Used to be a more important position, now tends to be people right out of collage, who, due to inexperience and lack of intelligence will eventually piss off the client. Probably responsible for more lost accounts than any other person. Now more commonly referred to Account Coordinator. With more experience Account Manager. In smaller agencies this person will also be Traffic and Production Manager

Production ManagerThe go between a vendor, (printer, photographer, illustrator, etc.) responsible timelines as well as getting bids based on budget, which will always be lower and more constraining for the designer, who will have to cut back on concepts.

Hopefully this The Designer’s Glossary of Terms will help agency teams and client-agency relationships with common terms.