How to speak graphic design



If you’ve ever spoken to a graphic designer about their work, you’ll know that they speak their own language. While that can be intimidating, it’s important that companies are able to clearly explain their vision to designers, especially if your team works with them frequently. Learning a handful of graphic design terms is a great step to take in order to make sure you’re speaking the same language as your designers.

Here’s 14 graphic design terms you and your team should take time to learn:


  • Opacity: Opacity is the measurement of how solid or transparent an element is. 100% opacity means the element is solid.
  • Resolution: An image’s resolution is what determines the quality of the image. Low resolution images will be pixelated and blurry, while a higher resolution image will be clear and crisp.
  • Complementary colors: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, making them complementary to each other (example: Blue and orange). A main aspect of color theory.
  • Analogous colors: Colors that fall next to each other on the color wheel that share a common base color (example: Red, orange and red-orange). Another aspect of color theory.


  • Serif: The extra stroke or curve on the ends of letters in a typeface. Serif typefaces are suggested for headlines rather than body text.
  • Sans-serif: The lack of a stroke or curve on the ends of letters in a typeface. Sans-serif typefaces are suggested for body text rather than headlines.
  • Script: Fluid fonts or typefaces based on either modern or historical handwriting.
  • Kerning: Refers to the horizontal space between two characters. Also refers to the process of adjusting this space, improving legibility.
  • Leading: The vertical distance between lines of text, also called line height.


  • Rule of thirds: The principle of breaking an image down into thirds. Applied by aligning a subject with the four guide lines and intersection points of a 3×3 grid. The middle four intersection points show the prime focal area in a design.
  • Scale: Refers to the size of an object compared with another object in the design. Scale helps designers emphasize certain elements in their design.
  • Aspect ratio: The proportional distance between the width and height of a rectangle.
  • White space: The area of a design left blank, also known as negative space. Meant to show emphasis or set part of the design apart.
  • Prototype: A version of a design that is not yet completed but is meant to give a rough idea of the final version.

Keep an eye on our blog for other advice on design, advertising and all things print!

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