25 Graphic Design Terms Every Marketer Needs To Know

graphic design terms

Being a marketer in the booming digital marketing space is not easy. Multitasking has become a mandatory skill. 

Among the many fields that a marketer is expected to be an expert in, graphic design is one. After all, design and marketing have become inseparable entities. So, if you are a marketer trying your hands at design, knowing a few graphic design terms can help you get started. Why even marketers who are looking to collaborate with a design team will find it useful to learn the jargon! 

Don’t know where to start? Fear not, we got you covered! We have put together a list of graphic design terms that any marketer should know. 

Graphic design terms for marketers – cracking the jargon like a pro 

About colors 

Do you want the colors in your design to be light or dark? How do you convey to your designer what colors you have in mind? Here are some graphic design terms for that. 

1. Hues 

Hues are solid colors or base colors. Most colors are lighter or darker versions of these hues. Hues can be primary colors (red, yellow, blue), secondary colors (by combining primary colors), or tertiary colors (by combining primary and secondary colors). 

Based on the color temperatures hues are classified as warm (red, orange, yellow) and cool (green, blue, violet) hues. Shades, tints, and tones are derivatives of hues. And together they form the whole color wheel. (remember that black, white and gray are not considered as hues)

2. Shades 

You create a shade when you mix black with one of the hues. For example, if you mix black with green, it results in a darker shade of green. 

3. Tints

How do you create tints? You guessed it right! You mix white with the hues to get tints. 

4. Tones 

Tones, on the other hand, are gray combinations of hues. This lowers the vibrance of the hue. With shades, tints, and tones, the amount of black, white, or gray you combine determines how dark or light or bright the color looks. 

5. Color harmonies 

The above graphic design terms help you locate colors in a color wheel. But when you have to combine them, you have to understand color harmonies. These are based on the position of the colors in the color wheel and how good they look when placed together. 

Similarly, you can choose tetradic and square palettes for designs where you need 4 colors and so on. 

6. CMYK 

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black) is a color model used in the printing segment. When you have to indicate the colors for your print designs, you use CMYK codes. This ensures that your design looks exactly as pictured when you print it. 

7. RGB

Similar to the CMYK model for the print world, the digital world has the RGB (red, green, blue) model. When you have both print and digital designs for your campaign, you need to document the corresponding CMYK and RGB codes. With this, your design looks consistent everywhere. 

8. Pantone 

Pantone is a globally known color-matching system. Simply adding the Pantone code lets you capture the accurate hue or tint/shade/tone you need in your design. This is another standard referred to for print designs. 

About fonts 

Like colors fonts are critical components in any design. They set the mood and define your brand’s visual style. Here are a few terms that help you compare fonts and choose the right style(s) for your design. 

9. Types of fonts 

The 4 basic font types you should know are: 

10. Kerning 

Kerning is the space between two letters in a word. You will notice a drastic change in the appearance of the typography by simply increasing or decreasing the kerning. This comes in handy while designing text-based logos. 

Typography-related graphic design terms for your copy 

11. Tracking 

Once you have addressed the spacing between characters, then comes the spacing between words (groups of characters). Optimal tracking helps distinguish words and understand the relationship between different words in a copy. 

12. Leading 

While kerning and tracking help understand the horizontal spaces, leading focuses on the vertical spaces. Compromising one of these can lead to poor legibility. 

13. Widows

When there are columns of text, have you come across a single paragraph overflowing to the next column? If there is just one line or one word in this overflow then it appears like a disconnected text at the beginning of a column. And this is called a widow. 

In the above image, the first word in red is a widow and the last word in red is the orphan. The column on the right corrects both of these. You can achieve this by playing with the leading, kerning, or tracking in the text. 

14. Orphans 

When there is a whole paragraph of text, if the last line in the paragraph has just one word, this word is referred to as an “orphan”. This term is also used to describe the starting line of a paragraph that sits at the bottom-most section of one column with the rest of the lines present in the other column. 

Both widows and orphans mess with the visual balance in the design. Keep an eye out for these while creating text-heavy designs like flyers, brochures, or even billboards. 

Graphic Design Terms For Types of logo designs 

15. Word mark 

A logo with nothing but your brand name is called a wordmark logo. The design here depends on the intuitive use of fonts, colors, and the overall composition (by playing with the kerning and tracking). The logos of Canon, FedEx, and Coca-cola are wordmark logos. 

16. Lettermark

Instead of the full brand name, these logos use initials. Again, the choice of fonts and colors influences the mood and style of the logo. HP, IBM, and CNN are lettermark logos. These are relatively smaller and they work well if your brand is instantly recognizable with the initials of the brand name alone. 

17. Emblem logo 

These contain an emblem, a historic symbol that captures either the story of how the business was created or a historic event that is connected with the brand or its founders. The Starbucks logo is a good example. 

18. Brandmark 

These again contain symbols but simpler ones unlike the intricate ones in an emblem logo. Brandmarks use relatable symbols that are somehow connected with the brand name or the brand’s offerings. The logos of Apple, Nike, and Target are brandmarks. 

19. Combination mark 

These combine a symbol and brand name for a better impact. When you consistently use this logo in your marketing designs, somewhere in the future, customers will start recognizing the symbol alone or the wordmark alone. So, you can use them individually if required and still create the same impact. The logos of Puma, Spotify, and Adidas are well-known combination mark logos. 

Other important graphic design terms 

20. Golden ratio 

When you click a picture, you apply the rule of thirds for optimal framing. This ensures that the viewer’s attention is concentrated on the subject for maximum impact. Similarly, in the world of design, there is the golden ratio

Put in simple words, designers use this ratio to determine the dimensions of the design and the placement of specific elements that deserve special attention. 

Using the golden ratio in design plays with the alignment of elements in such a way that the visual balance is maintained. 

21. Negative space 

In any design, there are empty spaces where there are no design elements. These are called negative spaces. These spaces are sometimes there in order to maintain the legibility of the copy. And sometimes they are intentional. Adding a lot of negative space around a text section, for example, pulls your attention toward the text. 

In the above business card design, all the negative space ensures that your full attention is on the brand name. 

Sometimes, designers manipulate negative space and create interesting symbols or shapes out of it. This way, they hide a meaning without using up extra space in the design. 

Ads like this make you visualize what’s not there. Interactions like these make designs memorable. 

22. Hierarchy 

In every design, the order in which you see the imagery and copy determines the meaning you grasp. This order is called hierarchy. Designers create hierarchy in design using repetitive patterns or by aligning the design elements in a way that directs viewer attention in the right direction. Sometimes, altering the size of the individual elements can also have a huge impact. 

23. Balance 

Every design element has a visual weight. Visual balance is about distributing this weight in such a way that the overall composition is visually appealing. Balance can be symmetrical, asymmetrical, or radial. 

24. Alignment 

The placement of any design element with respect to the common margins of the design or with respect to the other elements is called alignment. Changing the alignment can alter the visual balance. Sometimes, changing the alignment can help direct your eyes toward a focal point. Sometimes this is used to draw attention to the CTA. 

25. Skeuomorphism/flat design 

Have you heard marketers talk about big brands moving to flat logos? 

The previous logo of Burger King has highlights that make the logo look three-dimensional. These are called skeuomorphic designs and they mimic real-life objects by incorporating shadows and highlights. But flat designs eliminate these details and keep the overall design simple. As a result, the design looks clean and impactful both in digital and print designs. 

Now go create amazing designs for your brand 

Now that you know your ABCs, you can tackle your DIY design projects with confidence. Or the next time you try to write a design brief, you will be able to put your thoughts into words better. Of course, knowing these graphic design terms also come in handy when you have to point out specific aspects of design and thus give concrete design feedback. 

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