Graphic Design Vocabulary For the Rest of Us

Published on November 11, 2015

According to AIGA, the Association for Professional Design, graphic design "is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content." As you make your way through the world, you encounter graphic design in grocery stores, on the CTA, and on your television. But, even though graphic design often communicates common ideas, the words associated with this field are foreign to outsiders. 

Small business owners often have to work with graphic designers, which is why Pagemodo recently published an infographic explaining 28 basic design terms. It's a great place to begin. 

But, if you're not in the mood for a visual representation, here are some basic graphic design concepts from the infographic. 

  • Wireframe

"A basic layout that doesn't yet have design elements." 

Think of this as the bare bones, rudimentary layout of information. Finite graphic details - like specific imagery or font choices - take a back seat to larger structural elements in your initial wireframe design.

When building a website, after a careful analysis of our clients' needs, we begin with a wireframe to layout the contents of the future website. 


"Used in print and digital to help align elements to create consistency."

Remember using graph paper back in Calculus? A design grid is a transparent version of this paper, which designers overlay on top of their images as a guide for consistent image and text placement.


"How lines of text are spaced vertically, also known as line height."

The paragraph of space between these two lines of text could be considered "leading." This type of spacing can be manipulated for design purposes. 


"The art of arranging type elements in attractive ways." 

If you've ever seen a kinetic typography music video, you know how effective laying out type elements can be! 


"The space between a border and the object inside of it." 

Like the light gray component surrounding the "image" below:


"Adjusting the spacing between characters in the word."

Here's an extreme example of altered kerning:

"I like cats."

"I  l i k e  c a t s."

If you have other questions concerning the graphic design process or have questions about your digital marketing's other visual elements, drop the Geek Chicago team a line!

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