What Are Some Basic Graphic Design Phrases and Lingo for Beginners?

top view of working place in flat design over wooden table

Graphic design is a world of its own, and it’s easy to get lost in translation if you don’t know the lingo. But it’s worth expanding your vocabulary because these days, visuals are everything. Whether you’re a copywriter, social media manager, or marketer, you need to know how to work with visual content. 

Graphic designers use various terms to explain images, text, and colors. While the jargon can be confusing for beginners and non-designers, you can always start with the basics and work your way up. To help you, we’ve defined the most common words and phrases that the pros use. 


Design Terms


Scale refers to the size of an object compared to other elements in the same design. Elements of the same size are seen as equals, while larger ones are more powerful or influential. Scale can convey meaning and emotion if used correctly. 

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is the relation between the width and height of a rectangle. If you’re wondering why a rectangle, it’s because design typically deals with images and screens. It’s usually expressed as a mathematical ratio, with a colon dividing two numbers. The usual format is width: height. 


Texture refers to the visual appearance of an image’s surface. It can imitate the look of real-world materials such as metal or cloth and is achieved by layering graphics or printing on various paper stocks. 

White Space

White space is the area of a design with no content. It’s necessary to add white space because it makes a design look cleaner and allows viewers to focus on the essential elements. White space can be any color, texture, or pattern. 


A raster is a graphic image made with a fixed number of pixels, each with a different color, saturation, and transparency. Unlike vectors, raster images can become blurry when you resize them.


Vectors are graphic images made up of lines, curves, and points. These elements are calculated so you can resize the image without losing its quality. Vector images are the opposite of raster images.


Text and Typography


Typography is the appearance or style of printed text. It is also the art and process of making type attractive and legible to readers, whether digitally or in printed format. 

Sans Serif

Serif refers to the little strokes at the end of a letter. On the other hand, sans serif are letters without any additional projections. Sans serif fonts are usually easier to read on digital designs. 


The hierarchy gives direction and structure to a body of text. There’s a hierarchy in almost everything you read, including newspapers, magazines, and web articles. Titles, for example, are large and bold, while subheadings are smaller. 


A kern refers to the space between letters and characters. Kerning is the process of adjusting the gaps to increase legibility and create more balance in the design. 


In graphic design, leading is the term for line spacing. Not enough leading can make it hard to read text, while too much leading makes a body of text look disjointed. It’s essential to find the right amount of leading for maximum legibility. 




RGB refers to red, green, and blue and is the color model used to make a vast spectrum of other colors. When combining these three colors, it starts as black and then progressively becomes whiter the more you mix. RGB is usually for on-screen designs. 


Just like RGB, CMYK is also a color model but for print instead. Colors start lighter and progressively become darker as you mix them. 


A hex is a six-digit code that identifies colors in CSS, HTML, and other design software. 


A palette is the chosen combination of colors that represent a brand. These colors have to work together to make successful designs. 


Closing Thoughts

There are many more terms in the graphic design world. But with these basics in mind, you should be able to work more effectively with the graphic designers on your team. If you need any help with graphic design or other marketing efforts, you can contact Transformation Marketing at 402-788-2896.

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