Graphic Designer Language Made Simple - Strategic Flow Management

Graphic Designer Language Made Simple

Published on 24th May 2021

It can sometimes seem like ‘graphic designer speak’ is total gibberish. When working with graphic designers, they may say terms that are totally normal and clear for them, as they use them day in and day out. But, for those who aren’t graphic designers, these terms can be confusing, daunting, and sometimes make you feel a little out of your field.

There are plenty of quirky terms used by graphic designers, so if you’re working in marketing or business, the best thing to do is get to grips with the basic terms.


When someone tries to access a non-existent page on your website, they may be greeted by a 404 error page. Usually, this is caused by the user typing in the URL incorrectly, or by trying to go to a webpage that has since been deleted.


Yet another colour scheme, this one is made up of three colours that are all adjacent to each other on the colour wheel.

Below the fold

Where a user must scroll down to see more, this is the area known as ‘below the fold’.


When a design goes beyond the edge of the page so there are no margins, this is referred to as ‘bleed’.

Body copy

The main part of the design that usually includes the main part of the content of a book, website or advertisement.

Display type

If you’re in need of font that is the main focus of the design, you need display type. This is often used for titles of articles in magazine, headlines, or movie poster titles.


The domain refers to the name of the website people will type into their web browser in order to visit your website.


This is when a colour fades into another colour gradually, or perhaps something is opaque and gradually fades into transparency.


Kerning refers to the adjustment of space between characters within a word.


Also known as line height, this is how lines of text are spaced out vertically within a design.

Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum is used as a “dummy copy” text used as a generic text filler. When actual, real text isn’t quite ready or available, Lorem Ipsum is used to get a better idea of how a design will look and feel.


This is a colour scheme built using only one colour, which includes both lighter and darker shades of that one colour.

Orphans and widows

The short lines of sentences or loose words at the top or bottom of a column of type are also known as ‘widows and orphans’. Checking over the body copy will help to see if any orphans or widows exist.


The palette is a selection of colours used for a design that often match together to create a beautiful mix of colours.


Used before actually going “live”, the prototype gives you an idea of what a design will look like when it is completed.

Pull quote

Commonly used in magazine articles, it’s a quote pulled from the main body of text and used as a visual element to highlight a main point made in the article.


With people using various screen sizes such as PC screens, smartphones and tablets, different designs need to implemented to adjust to each sizing requirement. This means the design is responsive.


The art of arranging text into attractive and appealing ways. Typography looks at the design and typefaces used to better communicate words and ideas.

White space

If you’re leaving areas blank, this can then change the focus to other areas of the design. This blank area is referred to as “white space”.


Wireframes are used to show the general outlay of a web page or other piece of work, without the fancy graphics and design work implemented yet.

File Names

With many different files being used by graphic designers, many will just refer to them in shortened versions of their full name.

  • JPEG
    Joint Photographic Experts Group, which is a common image file, great for gradients.
  • GIF
    Often used in web design, they can either be animated or static. GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format.
  • PSD
    Photoshop Document Format, which is a great file type to use for documents required to be printed at the recipient’s end.
  • PDF
    This is the format of the files often used in Adobe Photoshop.


There are so many acronyms used in graphic design that will often mean nothing for those who aren’t designers. However, some of them are simple to remember and understand, once you know what they initially mean.

  • CMYK
    Usually used for print, this refers to the primary colours used of cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black).
  • RGB
    Usually used in digital designs, this refers to red, green and blue.
    In design, this refers to dots per inch or pixels per inch. Also known as the resolution.
  • UI
    The actual end appearance of a design is also known as the user interface.
  • UX
    The way a design behaves and flows for the user once it is live is also known as the User Experience, or UX.