Speaking Our Language: Design Lingo

Posted by Carly King on November 03, 2017

If you’re new to the world of design, learning all of the lingo can definitely be a tad overwhelming. Like any other jargon, it might sound like another language at first, but once you familiarize yourself with some key words and phrases, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Here’s a quick rundown of some design terms you’ll definitely come across:

Design Lingo Glossary

Grid/Grid Lines: When creating a new file, using a grid format consisting of vertical and horizontal lines can help structure your content more easily, by establishing consistent margins and evenly spaced columns. Grids keep everything aligned by giving balance and structure to the content.

grid example
Grid layout via Designers Insights

Kerning: This refers to spacing out the individual lettering in a word. It’s an important term to know because if the spacing between characters is too close together or too far apart, it can change the way the word is interpreted or even make it more difficult to read.

wave text with different spacing
Play the Kerning game, via Method of Action

Leading: Similar to kerning, the leading is the spacing between each line of text. If you have a larger chunk of text, increasing the leading can make it more tasteful to the eyes by breaking it up.

text blocks with different spacing
Example via Creative Market

Widow: This is when the last word or short last line of text gets “separated” on its own at the end of a paragraph. From a design perspective, you’ll want to eliminate widows to improve the overall appearance.

widow diagram

Serif vs. Sans Serif: The difference between these typeface styles are the small “tails” at the end of each stroke: serif fonts have them, sans serif fonts do not. Sans serif fonts are perfect for a sleek, modern look, while serif fonts work really well for a more classic look.

Serif vs. Sans Serif letter "A"
Example via UrbanFonts

Typography: It’s the art of using type as a way to communicate. It transforms content from just flat text to an engaging, impactful part of the design.

typography images
October via Pinterest; Typography via Pinterest; Easy Peasy via Pinterest; Alphabet typography via Pinterest

Lorem Ipsum: This is sometimes referred to as Greek text, and it’s used as placeholder text when creating mock-up designs to give an idea of what the design will look like when the final content is dropped in. You can even try shaking up your mockups with this Lorem Ipsum Generator.

Lorem Ipsum text

Vector: A vector is an outlined image made up of points rather than pixels, so it can be edited any which way. For example, when you’re using a vector, you can scale an image to any size you want and it will keep the same resolution (without pixelating).

Vector images: text reading "hi", lion, and burger

Lion via Behance; The Ultimate Burger via Creative Bloq

White Space: The negative space that surrounds the elements in your design and gives it balance. Just because there’s technically nothing in it, don’t underestimate the significance of white space. It’s just as important as the rest of the design, because it gives your eye a place to rest so you’re not overwhelmed, and sometimes it can even function as its own design element.

whitespace examples and diagrams
Interior Design brochure via Pinterest; Dahuloe slides via Pinterest

Hierarchy: Using placement and styling of design elements like color, size, and shape in order to signify importance and draw the viewer’s attention to where you want it to go. Good examples include establishing header and body copy styles, or a grayscale image with certain elements called out in color.

hierarchy pyramid and grayscale example
Meet Project PRX via ZevenDesign

Push and Pull: This is a way of giving your design some depth using typography and imagery. You might pair heavy fonts with lighter ones in order to emphasize the specific message or visual that you’re trying to communicate to the viewer. These contrasts make it less static and more visually interesting.

push and pull web and print examples
UW Design 2012 via Pinterest; The Bowton via Pinterest, About Us brochure via Pinterest

Bleeds/Crops: The bleed is the space that you’re willing to trim off when a design prints, and the crop is just that: the place where it will be cropped. Using bleeds and crops are beneficial so you don’t have to worry about cutting right at the edge of a design and misjudging by a hair.

Bleeds and crops diagram
Diagram via Adobe

All Around Creative Lingo

In our studio at All Around Creative, we’ve developed some of our own lingo to communicate with each other. For example, if something is “solid”, that means it’s a successful or impactful design that achieves its purpose. When our Studio Manager Rick says to “do you”, that’s code for us to put our own creative spin on the project at hand. And an “I DIG IT!” from Rick is highly sought-after; that’s his way of telling us he likes our design approach.

From left: solid.; do you; I dig it!

This kind of lingo may be light-hearted, but it keeps all of us on the same page and the studio running smoothly, just like the more technical terms above do. We’re happy to help you take a deeper dive into this glossary and the world of design—just reach out to us to get started – we think you might just dig it!

Carly King, Graphic Designer at AAC

Carly King
Graphic Designer