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Definitions of Graphic Design

Design Definitions

Getting thrown into a project and working with a graphic designer can be a daunting ask. From the outside, a designer’s world can seem intimidating and overwhelming. A world where everything is critiqued. And a world with its own language. Fear not. Although This post won’t directly get you in the good graces with your graphic designer. But the definitions of graphic design will help. If you understand what is being talked about and requested, that will allow you to communicate with ease. Enjoy.


Refers to a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height. These letters are b, d, f, h, i, j, k, l and t.


The lack of equality or equivalence between parts or aspects of something; lack of symmetry.


The imaginary line in which text rests on.


Describes a document which has images or elements that touch the edge of the page, extending beyond the trim edge. When a document has bleed, it must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down.

Body Copy

The main part of text whether written for a website, book, or other publication. It is typically the most detailed section of copy.


Refers to the height of a capital letter.


Each letter refers to a specific color ink in the 4 color printing process.
The abbreviation stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key, which refers to black. This process allows for every color combination possible when printing.


A page layout of a proposed design presented by the designer to a client before final copy and images have been chosen. These designs sometimes contain Lorem Ipsum or dummy copy.


In visual arts, composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art, as distinct from the subject. In graphic design for press and desktop publishing, composition is commonly referred to as page layout.


Refers to a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline. These letters are g, j, p, q, and y.


Is a measurement in primarily print describing dot density specifically the amount of dots per 1 square inch. Optimal dpi for print is 300dpi.


In design and printing, FPO (pronounced as an initialism) equates to for position only or for placement only.

Grid System

A grid is a two-dimensional structure made up of a series of intersecting vertical, horizontal, and angular guide lines used to structure content.


A hex triplet is a six-digit, three-byte hexadecimal number used in HTML, CSS, SVG, and other computing applications to represent colors. The bytes represent the red, green and blue components of the color. One byte represents a number in the range 00 to FF (in hexadecimal notation), or 0 to 255 in decimal notation.


The process of adjusting the spacing between specific characters in a font helps you to create proportional and balanced typography.


See “composition“.

Leading (Line-Height)

Refers to the space between lines of type (vertically). Originally called leading due to the large planks of lead used to increase spacing between lines of manually printed pages before the printing press.

Lorem Ipsum

Text that is a form of “filler” used as a placeholder for text in a design. This scrambled Latin text allows designers to create design layouts without having access to the final written copy. It is primarily used to show what text might look like before the actual text has been written.

Negative Space

The space surrounding the words and shapes in your design. Some designers use the negative space to create an additional designs. A good example of negative space is the arrow found in the FedEx logo.


Words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph. These words are isolated from the rest of the content, often causing an unwanted focal point. An orphan is the same as a widow, but the isolated words appear on an adjacent page.

Pantone (PMS)

The company is best known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS), a proprietary color space used primarily in printing. The system seeks to install a standard color system for printers and users alike wherever you are in the world.


Is a measurement in primarily web describing pixel density specifically the amount of pixels per 1 square inch. Optimal ppi for print is 72ppi.

Rag (Right and Left)

In typography, “rag” refers to the irregular or uneven vertical margin of a block of type. Usually it’s the right margin that’s ragged (as in the flush left/rag right setting), but either or both margins can be ragged.

Raster Graphics

Also called a bitmap image, is a dot matrix data structure that represents a generally rectangular grid of pixels (points of color), viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium.


Refers to the sharpness and clarity of an image. The term is most often used to describe monitors, printers, and bit-mapped graphic images.


This abbreviation stands for red, green and blue. It’s a color mode for all images shown through an electronic display, such as a computer or television.

Rule of Thirds

A guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs. In which the horizon sits at the horizontal line dividing the lower third of the photo from the upper two-thirds.

Sans Serif

A style of typeface in which there are no small projections at the end of each character stroke. Common sans serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica and Verdana.


A slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter in some typefaces Common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Georgia and Garamond.


The quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or reflected on an axis.

Tracking (Letter-Spacing)

The adjustment of the spacing of letters in a group when next to each other. Tracking is kerning, but on a larger scale.

Vector Graphics

Creation of digital images through a sequence of commands or mathematical statements that place lines and shapes in a given two-dimensional or three-dimensional space.

White Space

See “negative space “.


See “orphan”.


Refers to the height of lowercase letters not including ascenders and descenders.

Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash