<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=2238724&amp;fmt=gif">

Graphic Design Glossary: Basic Terms for Marketers

Graphic Design Glossary: Basic Terms for Marketers

May 20, 2021 / Judy Seto

Don't know the difference between serif & sans serif? As a marketer, it's important to know some basic design terms for when you're briefing artwork and requesting revisions. It'll make your life (and your designer's life) easier!

This is by no means an extensive glossary, but just the basic terms that most marketers will come across when working with designers and printers.

To search this page, press CTRL+F, or if you are on a mac use Command+F 



Adobe Creative Cloud

A subscription service to a set of applications from Adobe Inc. that is used for graphic design, video editing, web development, and more. 
Some of their most popular applications are: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Lightroom, Premier, AfterEffects.


The arrangement of text or images in relation to the page. There are four types of alignment; centre, left, right and justified. It's usually used to create balance and order to the layout.
Examples of left, right, center and justified alignment in typography

Source: Tubik Studio


Generating movement with graphics by displaying a series of images using frames. See also: GIF

Animation of pasta being twirled by a fork at The Carrington Surry Hills

Animation created by Distil for The Carrington using photographs




The visual balance of elements in a design, in order to achieve unity.


The bleed is the extra space that extends beyond where you have planned to cut your page. This ensures that your finished work looks exactly as you planned for it to be, and does not have any white edges left from the paper.


Source: The Paper Mill Store


The decorative design or edge of your work. Borders are often thought about in print terms but it can also be a valuable digital design tool as well and can serve as an element to help break up different of a design.  

Body Text

The body text is sometimes also known as the body copy and it is the text that form the main content of a design, digital work or web page.

Brand Identity

A brand identity consists of all the visual or tangible elements that represent a company's image. It is how you shape and create an impression that make the company recognisable.




Also called process or 4-colour, CYMK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black which are the four inks that are printed together to create colourful images.

Colour Palette

In the digital world, a colour palette refers to the full range of colours that can be displayed on a device screen or other interface. It is the combination of colours being used by designers.


Contrast helps organise your design and adds visual interest. It is the difference between two or more elements in a composition of a visual design. 


In contrast to the visual elements of a design the copy is the written material. 


To crop means to remove the unwanted areas of a photographic or illustrated image. It can be achieved by designers through using image editing software.  

Crop Marks

These can also be called the 'trim marks' and are lines printed in the corner's of your publication's sheet or design to show you where to crop the paper. They're used by commercial printers for creating bleeds where an image or colour on the page needs to extend.

Example of crop marks

Source: Alpha Graphics



Die Cut

Die cutting is a material-shaping process. It is done on either on flatbed or rotary presses where flat goods are cut or distorted by a sharp metal edge. It is then pressed into the stock to be cut and shaped in a specific way. 

Die cut stickers in the shape of a head with top hat for Campari Group

Die cut sticker designed by Distil for Campari Group

Double Page Spread

A double page spread refers to any one design that covers two pages. The layout is often featured in the centre of a magazine or a menu for example and covers both pages facing each other.


DPI stands for dots(or sometimes pixels)-per-inch and is used in printing terms to describe the number of dots or pixels that fit into one inch of space. 




Graphic design is the art of combining visuals with text and ideas to create a beautifully crafted work that communicates a specific message. In order to do this, you'll need the seven basic elements which graphic design are line, shape, colour, texture, type, space and image


Embossing is a process used in print making and is simply raising the surface of your design so that it has some depth. Its a great way to give your design another dimension. 


When you embed something, you insert it into your design. Embedding refers to the integration of links, images, videos, gifs and other social media posts or web media. If something is embedded it appears as part of the design and supplies a visual element.


EPS is a file format that stands for Encapsulated PostScript. It is a vector format designed for printing to PostScript printers and imagesetters. It is considered the best choice for graphics format for high resolution printing of illustrations. 


To export a file means to permit a user to save a file in a different format in order to open it in a different program. 



Focal Point

They are the centre of focus of a design and are areas of interest, emphasis, or difference within a composition that capture or hold the viewer's attention. Focal points are the point to which all elements or aspects converge.


The font is the choice of lettering and shaping a designer users to put text on their work. Fonts are varied in shapes and sizes and a good one, gives an edge to a work. Helping the designer convey their message more clearly. 
See also: 'typeface'




GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It is a series of images or soundless video that will loop continuously and doesn't require anyone to press play. The image file format is commonly used for images on the web and sprites in software programs. 


Gradient is also known a the colour transitions of a design and are a gradual, blending form one colour to another. Gradients add depth and dimension to a design.

The Golden Sheaf Double Bay

Poster featuring gradient design by Distil for The Golden Sheaf


Header / Heading

Header is the top section of a web page or page layout. The whole space above. the fold of the homepage is considered a header. 


Hierarchy is the control of visual information in an arrangement or presentation of which is most important. Designers use it to influences the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees. It is done by manipulating characteristics. For example, size - users will notice larger elements more easily. 

Example of how hierarchy can effect graphic design

Source: Visme

High Resolution

If a design is of high resolution it is of high quality. The higher the resolution the more pixels per inch (PPI) resulting in more pixel information and creating a crisp, clear image.  




Italics are used for emphasis. It appears in a slanted font and is used when a designer wants a word to stand out. It is different to bolding a word because it doesn't jump out. 


JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. It is the standard image format for containing compressed image data. It is the most common file format for photo storage. 


Is the structuring of the text to align with the top, bottom, sides, or middle of text or graphic elements on a page with no rag on either side.




Kerning is the spacing between individual letters or characters and the process of adjusting the space between letters or characters. Kerning increases the legibility of a word or a entire block of text. 
See also: 'Leading' and 'Tracking'

Kerning vs tracking in typography

Source: Rightpoint



Layers are overlapping components of an image or sequence. They're the different levels at which one can place an object or image file. They can be stacked, merged or defined when creating a digital image. 


Pronounced 'ledding,' it is a typography term that refers to the space between two baselines of text. it is typically measured in pixels, while line spacing is measured as a ratio of the default line height.

Examples of leading in typography

Source: Creative Market


Lowercase letters are the non-capital letters of the alphabet. They make up the bulk of the body, with uppercase or capital letters used primarily to start sentences or proper names. 

Low Resolution

You guessed it! The opposite to high resolution. Low resolution images usually look pixelated or blurry and are of low-quality. The only time they can usually be used for graphic design is for the web.




Very similar to the margins you were taught not to write in at school, a margin is the space between the edge of a page and the content within it. The space ensures the that after the product is trimmed, the content is not cut off or too close to the edge. 

Mock Up

A mock-up is a realistic, normally 3-D model of a design thats used for product presentations or other purposes. They are used to show how an entire campaign roll-out would look.

Two mock-ups of print postersA mock-up of two Opera Bar posters designed by Distil



Negative Space

Negative space is also referred to in design as 'white space' and put simply, it is the space between parts of a design or the empty space/ blank areas.




Pronounced 'o-PASS-ity' it refers to the opaqueness of an object. The more transparent an image is the less opaque or opacity it is in graphic design.

Opacity in graphic design

Source: Zeka Design


An outline design refers to the outer edges or sketching of an object without any shading or interior details. 


The topmost layer is known as the overlay, which serves as the visible representation of the users interface panel. 




Is a colour matching system, meaning all colours combining pan and tone. Pantone allows designers to see what the colour 'orange' would look like on paper and then provide the printer with the Pantone number to ensure  they got what they were after. 


Yet another acronym, PDF stands for Portable Document Format. This is a specific file format which accurately aims to represent a document onscreen. It is the best file to save as if you need to exchange data while keeping the original layout and appearance.


Pixel in design terms is the smallest controllable element of a picture represented on a screen. Each individual square is called a pixel and has the capacity to broadcast millions of colours.


A PNG a.k.a a portable network graphic is an image time most commonly used in web design. It is a file format that supports lossless data compression. 



Quick Keys / Shortcuts

Quick keys or shortcuts refer to the certain keys on your keyboard that allow you to carry out specific functions in a single click, rather than a longer, more drawn-out process. For example - A  shortcuts to copying an expect require you to combine pressing the command ⌘ key on Mac and the letter C. Quick keys are one of the most important things for a designer to know!




The acronyms don't stop! Red Green Blue is the colour space for digital images. They are mixed together on screen to create the full spectrum of colors. Comparatively, CMYK ink is mixed together on paper to create the full spectrum.



Sans Serif & Serif

Another one for typography, sans-serif put simply is a fonts that tend to have less stroke width variation than serif fonts. Serifs fonts are fonts that have strokes at the end of the lettering. These strokes are called serifs.

Serif vs Sans Serif fonts

Source: Dr. Mark Womack


Saturation refers to the intensity of colour of an image in a design. The higher the saturation, the more pure the colour appears to be. 




Used to describe letter spacing. This is sometimes confused with kerning - but tracking adjusts the letter spacing uniformly over a range of characters rather than individual letters. 


Typeface is typically interchangeable with the word 'font'. Your choice of typeface should work well with your layout, grid, colour scheme etc and can be the difference between a good and bad design. 




Yep, you guessed it again! The opposite to lowercase. Uppercase or capital letters are used primarily to start sentences or proper names in design. 




Vector is another design work but unlike JPEGs and GIFs vector are not made up of pixels. Instead, vector graphics are made up of paths, which are defined by a start and end point as well as other lines, points, curves, and angles. This means no matter how large or small or how you zoom in on an image, the image remains clear.




Also known as a logo or trademark that is layered over an image or design with a great deal of transparency. Although it is placed over the image or design it doesn't interrupt the vision of the photo or design that it protects. 




An x-axis is one of the axes of a two- or three-dimensional graph often used in design. The x-axis is the horizontal plane of a graph in and gives a numerical value to each point. 




The y-axis is the vertical axis of a two- or three-dimensional graph often used in design and also gives numerical value to each point. 

Screen Shot 2021-05-19 at 4.04.02 pm


Zip File

You finally made it to the bottom of the graphics alphabet! Congrats! Last one is another file format. ZIP is used for data archiving and compression. It contains one files that have been compressed to reduce file size and allow for easy file transfers.


Looking for more graphic design & digital marketing resources? Subscribe to our blog to stay in the loop!

Subscribe to our Blog

Subscribe to our blog