Branding + Marketing

Graphic Design Terms You Need to Know For Marketing Success

November 11, 2022

3 minutes

Have you ever felt confused about graphic design terms?

Graphic design often becomes a pain point for small businesses and nonprofits, largely because it takes on a life of its own. Not only is the design process a significant undertaking, but it also requires a specific skill set and eye for design that isn’t easy to come by.

A qualified graphic design agency can help with this, but before you enter into this kind of partnership, it will help tremendously if you spend a bit of time learning the terminology used in the context of this discipline.

You don’t need to become a graphic design expert. Still, it’s important to understand some key graphic design terms to communicate productively with your designer, build a better brand identity, and get more from your marketing campaigns.

Here are some of the most important graphic design terms to know:

What is a Pixel?

You’re probably familiar with Pixel, but you may be surprised to learn that it actually stands for “picture element” — pix=picture and el=element. In digital design, a pixel is the smallest controllable element of an image. Pixels are usually arranged in a regular 2-dimensional grid and are often represented using dots or squares. By controlling the color and brightness of each pixel, digital images can be created.

What is DPI?

DPI stands for “dots per inch” and measures the number of pixels in one inch of an image. The higher the DPI, the more detailed the image will be. For example, an image with a DPI of 300 will be much sharper than that of a DPI of 150.

What is CMYK?

CMYK stands for “cyan, magenta, yellow, black” and is the standard color model used for printing. In CMYK printing, each color is printed as a separate layer on top of the others, with black being the last color to be printed. This allows for a wide range of colors to be printed but can also result in colors that are not as bright as they would be if they were printed using other color models, such as RGB.

What is RGB?

RGB stands for “red, green, blue” and is the standard color model used for electronic displays such as computer monitors and TVs. In RGB displays, each pixel emits its own red, green, and blue light, which combine to create the desired color. This results in colors that are very bright but can sometimes appear artificial.

RELATED CONTENT: How to Find the Best Graphic Design Services

What is a HEX Code?

A HEX code is a six-digit code used to represent a specific color in digital design. HEX codes are typically used when working with web colors, as they can be easily translated into RGB or CMYK values. HEX codes usually start with a “#” symbol and are followed by three pairs of hexadecimal digits (0-9 and A-F).

What are Pantone Colors?

Pantone colors are special colors used to match specific ink colors used in printing. When designing something that will be printed using Pantone ink, be sure to use the correct Pantone color to match the ink that will be used. Pantone colors are typically represented by their Pantone number (e.g., Pantone 185 C).

What are Vector Graphics?

Vector graphics are images comprised of lines and curves rather than pixels. Vector graphics can scale to any size without losing quality, making them ideal for logos and graphics of all sizes.

What are Raster Graphics?

Images made of pixels are called raster graphics. Raster graphics cannot be scaled to a larger size without losing quality, making them less ideal for logos and other types of graphics that need to be used in multiple sizes. However, raster graphics can often provide more detail than vector graphics.

RELATED CONTENT: Graphic Design 101: What Marketers Need To Know

What is Orientation in Graphic Design?

When graphic designers talk about orientation, they’re referring to how an image is positioned on a page. The most common graphic orientations are portrait and landscape. Portrait orientation is when the image is taller than it is wide, and landscape orientation is when the image is wider than it is tall. When choosing an orientation for an image, designers must consider the purpose of the image and the available space on the page.

What is Balance in Graphic Design?

When creating a design, you need to find a balance between different elements, such as color, size, shape, texture, and typeface. If one of these elements is too dominant, it can make the design look unbalanced and cluttered. On the other hand, if all of the elements are too subtle, the design may appear bland and lifeless. The key is to find a happy medium that will create a sense of harmony in your design.

What is Contrast in Graphic Design?

In graphic design, contrast is the difference between two elements in a composition. Designers use contrast techniques to create visual interest, texture, and depth through color, line, shape, and value to create a variety of effects. For example, designs with high contrast create a dramatic look, while low contrast may be more suitable for a subtle or elegant design. The key is to find the right balance for your particular project.

What is Layout?

The layout of a piece refers to the overall arrangement of its elements. It’s important to plan your layout before starting to create your design, as it will help determine your finished product’s overall look and feel.

RELATED CONTENT: How Graphic Design and Marketing Work Together to Grow Brand Awareness and Generate Leads

What is Bleed in Graphic Design?

When we talk about bleed in graphic design, we’re referring to the process of printing images or text that go all the way to the edge of the paper. To achieve a clean bleed, it’s necessary to extend your design slightly beyond the edge of the page. This ensures that there’s no white space around the edges of your finished piece.

What is Resolution in Graphic Design?

Resolution refers to the number of pixels per inch (ppi) in an image, and the higher the resolution, the sharper and more detailed the image will be. For print design, a resolution of 300 ppi is generally considered to be optimal. This means that there should be 300 pixels of image data for every inch of printed material. Web design typically uses a lower resolution of 72 ppi, as this is sufficient for most screens.

What is Readability in Graphic Design?

One of a graphic designer’s jobs is to ensure that a graphic is easy to read and understand. To do this, designers choose typefaces that are easy to read, use color and contrast effectively, and break up text into manageable chunks. Additionally, designers consider the overall layout of the graphic and how best to organize the information, so it’s easy to digest.

On a more tactical level, you may have heard terms such as kerning, leading, and tracking when talking about the space between letters in a font. Kerning is the space between two individual letters while leading refers to the space between lines of text. Tracking is the overall spacing of all the letters in a block of text. These three things can have a big impact on the readability of your design. If the letters are too close together, it can be difficult to read. If they’re too far apart, it might look messy.

RELATED CONTENT: How to Create a Style Guide for Your Business or Nonprofit

What are Scalability and Simplicity in Graphic Design?

Scalability simply refers to the ability of a design to be reproduced at different sizes without losing quality or resolution. There are a few key things to remember when creating scalable designs. First, choose vector over raster graphics as the former is easier to scale without losing quality. Next, choose your typeface carefully. Some typefaces are specifically designed to be used at large sizes, while others lose their readability when scaled up. When in doubt, consult a typeface expert or use a simple sans-serif font that will look good at any size.

Finally, keep your designs clean and simple; too much detail will only make it harder to scale up your design without sacrificing quality. By following these simple tips, you can create graphic designs that are both beautiful and scalable.

Need Help with Graphic Design?

Congratulations! You made it to the end of a very long post about graphic design terms. We certainly hope that we answered your most burning questions about graphic design, but if not, we invite you to schedule a meeting with us to learn more about our nonprofit and small business graphic design services.

Cross & Crown

About Cross & Crown

Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

Our Culture

We drive results for work that matters.