8 Graphic Design Terms Everyone Should Know

So you want to work with a graphic designer, but you don’t necessarily speak the “designer language.” That’s ok. Good designers should be able to communicate ideas without using an over abundance of industry terms.

However, should you want to learn more about whatever it is your designer is talking about, then this list is for you.

1. Logo

To most, a logo is simply a picture that represents a business or organization. But when a designer talks about a logo, they are talking about a symbol or simple series of objects used to identify something. To a designer, a logo needs to be immediately identifiable, unique and scalable.

In order to use the logo in any situation, like on t-shirts, billboards, and websites, it needs to be built in such a way that it is easily adapted to different mediums. This is why using photographs in a logo is a bad idea. Photos don’t translate well between different mediums. When a designer wants to build a logo, they will use vector materials.

A logo can consist of a few different elements. Most common is the name of the organization or business. Some logos, like Coca-Cola, only consist of type. Other logos use an icon or symbol along with the name. Meanwhile other logos use emblems or shields. All of these elements can be mixed and combined to make truly unique logo designs.

2. Pixel

A pixel is the smallest point in an image when viewed on a display. Digital images like photographs are made up of thousands of pixels in a grid. To see a pixel, you only have to zoom in to the picture. Images that are made up of pixels are called raster images. The most common program associated with raster images is Photoshop. Usually anything you see online is a raster image.

3. Vector

Vectors are an alternative way of making a digital image. A vector is a line drawn between two points. A vector image is made up of many points and lines to make a single graphic. The advantage to using vectors when designing is that the graphic is extremely scalable. This means that the vector graphic will have the same amount of detail when scaled very small or blown up to the size of a building. That’s an advantage that raster images can’t claim.

4. Resolution

Resolution doesn’t refer to a promise made to yourself on New Year’s Eve in this instance. Every raster image has a resolution. This refers to the number of pixels in an inch, or DPI: dots per inch. High resolution images have 300 DPI, while images used online are 72 DPI. When using an image for print, the higher the resolution the better, but typically 300 DPI is the minimum to ensure the image will reproduce well.

5. JPEG

JPEG (pronounced jay-peg), or JPG refers to an image format that you’ll hear a lot from graphic designers. They are raster images that have a lot of uses depending on the compression used. The advantage JPEG images have over other image file types is that they can be compressed to varying degrees to make the file size smaller, which is great for sending them over email. JPEG images are most commonly used online for images that need to display a lot of detail. However, they can also be used in print if the resolution is high enough.

6. EPS

EPS is an image format that mainly uses vector graphics. An image in EPS format is very universal and can be opened in many different programs capable of reading vector files. Many high quality print materials are in EPS format. EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript.

7. RGB

RGB is a standard color space and stands for red, green and blue. When ever you look at a display such as your monitor, phone or television, you’re seeing an image composed of red, green and blue pixels. Any image used online or intended for viewing on a display is usually in RGB color space.

8. CMYK

CMYK is another color space and stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. It is also referred to a four color or process color. When an image is used for print purposes, it is in CMYK color space.

Leave a comment below if you’d like any other terms explained or have descriptions for terms not on this list.