5 Terms Every Graphic Designer Should Know / by Olivia Penero

When I talk to friends who are from a different industry and they ask me to do design work for them, they're often stumped by the array of words that leave my mouth when trying to explain the process. If it's happened to you, that's great - it means you know your designer lingo.  

Just like all other professions, Graphic Design has its own collection of jargon and terms you might or might not have come across in the past. I've taken five which I think are some of the most commonly used in design-related conversations in the hopes of clearing things out for you. Whether you're a long-time designer in need of a refresher or someone just starting out, read on.

 

1. CMYK & RGB

CMYK - SOURCE

CMYK - SOURCE

Your purpose for creating a document often defines its "color mode". RGB (or Red, Green, and Blue) is the color mode used more frequently in the digital space (or as you see it on screen). It has more color gamut (range or scope) than CMYK (or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key), the color mode used more frequently for print. 

In CMYK, "K" stands for "Black" because when you print in this color mode, the CMY plates are aligned with the key of the black plate (this is really technical stuff now, but the more you know, right?). This means that when you send something for printing, the CMYK plates are aligned for printing on paper. 

There are other color modes available (especially when using Photoshop or Illustrator) but these two are the most common ones used by designers everywhere, whether for digital or print projects. 

 

2. Raster Images & Vector Images

To the non-designer, images are just images. However, there really is a HUGE difference between the two, again depending on purpose for use. So how are they different?

SOURCE

SOURCE

Raster Images are often called "bitmap images" made up of pixels. These pixels decide the color and form of an image (they're the small squares you see when you zoom in in Photoshop). Because raster images are made up of a set number of pixels, resizing is the worse, especially when you're trying to make it larger. When you do that, the software has to create pixels by guessing which ones would fit where and in what color. This guesswork makes the image blurry in effect.

Vector Images were sent by the gods (haha, partially kidding). Because vector images are based on points that form a shape, they can be scaled to whatever size you want and have no loss of quality. These points have defined coordinates on the document, so in a sense, you're really just moving the points around when resizing, not adding to them like the software would do for raster images. Vectors are most often used for logos and shirt designs so that quality is maintained all throughout. 

 

3. PPI & DPI

PPI stands for "Pixels Per Inch" while DPI means "Dots Per Inch". When it comes to image resolution, this is yet another term most people (and even some designers) find confusing. (Note: resolution is only used for raster images because vectors use points.)

Put simply, you should only bother yourself with DPI when creating for print. DPI is the number of dots per inch on a page so the more dots there are, the better the image quality. 300DPI is the acknowledged standard for printing images. 

Obviously, PPI counts how many pixels are in your document per inch. If you scale an image in Photoshop, you increase the image's number of PPI, making you lose quality. 

 

4. Logo Design & Branding

Yes, they're not the same. While a logo is part of establishing yourself as a brand, it's not branding itself, just an aspect of it. If you think designing a logo isn't easy, branding is not a walk in the park either. 

A logo should be memorable and really good ones last a lifetime, but those that do reach that point because of - you guessed it - the branding. The latter is the identity of your company and it purpose, how it wants to represent itself to the public. 

 

5. Typography

Typography is the art of arranging type so that they look great. It's one of the fundamentals of graphic design and anyone aspiring to be a designer should look into it. It's the art of layouting text in response to a mood, an advocacy, or something else you want to communicate to the audience. 

The past year was the time typography really started to make its mark among even the most old-fashioned brands. Great typography communicates a message through its form and style. 

Hope you learned a thing or two from this post!

XO, OLIVIA