Speaking the Language of Design

09/06/2015 11:24:33

Speaking the Language of Design

Design terms and phrases can be difficult to understand if you are new to the field. The ability to effectively communicate with a designer can mean the difference between having your design vision for a custom flyer or business card, delivered accurately or not. Use our design definitions to gain insight into everyday design terminology, so you can solidify your brand’s visual identity and enhance your marketing materials.  

1. Artwork

Artwork is the term given to the final layout of type, image and photography. All of the elements are packaged and ready to go to the printer. Make sure you give everything a good check over to ensure that it meets your print specifications.


Before printing, ensure the print settings are correct on the program used to design the product. Make sure there isn’t any oversetting text and that it’s in a CMYK format.

2. Typeface

A font is what you use but a typeface is what you see. Typeface comes from the good old days of analogue printing when every page was set out in frames with inked-up metal letters, which were then laboriously pressed onto paper.

Tip: Selection of font is key in making written copy more visually appealing. Make sure you choose something appropriate for your target market.

3. Vector

A vector is a type of digital image using an outline made up of tiny interlinked points. When vector graphics are enlarged, they don’t pixelate or lose any image quality.

Tip: Vector programs such as Adobe Illustrator are great for larger products such as banners and A0 posters.

4. Raster

Raster is another type of digital image, also known as a bitmap, made up of unconnected dots or pixels. If you enlarge a raster graphic, at some stage you will see the individual parts and your image will become pixelated. Raster-based graphics are primarily used in Adobe Photoshop.

Tip: Raster images can be great for editing photos but tend to lose their image quality when resized.

5. White Space

Designers are said to absolutely love white space. This term - also referred to as negative space - is quite simply an area contained in a design which does not have any design or copy in it. It is a great way to separate your design from any surrounding ads, draw the eye to your message and give it more impact.

Tip: Think about the amount of white space you have in your marketing materials. Are you trying to pack too much information into your flyers or leaflets? Actually limiting your copy could help deliver your message more clearly.  

6. Less is more

In the design world simplicity is king - the simpler the design, the clearer your brand messaging will come across. Clunky and cluttered copy can be difficult to process, and your message can end up being lost in translation, so try to make your message as simple and direct as possible. Talk with your designer and get their opinion on how much information you need on a page. 

Tip: Practice the ‘less is more’ approach by making your copywriting more concise. This can be achieved through two to three rounds of proof reading – once you think you’ve finalised your copy, check it again, there will no doubt be some further shaving off that can be done.

7. Off-white

Off-white is a colour option popular amongst the print and design industry. Designing printed products on an off-white paper colour or card is a great way of making items look more high-end and professional.

Tip: Try using off-white paper for your business cardsto give the appearance of heavier weight and class.

8. Sans-serif

Sans-serif refers to simple typefaces – those ‘without feet’ or without the decorative flicks found at the end of each stroke on a serif typeface. Common sans-serif typefaces include Helvetica, Futura and Gill Sans. Try each type on your design and see which you like more.

Tip: Use a sans-serif font to give your branding more of a modern and minimalist feel.

9. Wireframe

This is usually a printed copy of what your website will look like. Also classed as a mock-up, the wireframe will show where key elements of the site will go, but will not actually show the elements in their finished format.  

Tip: Don’t worry if all the elements aren’t in place, your designer is allowing you to sign off the layout before they begin coding the final elements of your website.

10. Copyfitting

Exactly as it sounds, this is working out how much copy will fit on a page. Certain design elements can affect copy space such as ‘leading’ (the amount of space between text), or ‘extended type’ (fonts that are designed to be extra-wide).

Tip: Your designer may fill the space with lorem ipsum text, standard industry dummy text, to give you an idea of how the final product will look.