10 Design Terms Non-designers Should Know

Whether you’re starting to create branding materials for your business or about to hire a graphic designer, it would be helpful to understand some terms that the creatives might use in conversation. Knowing basic design terms will not only make it easier to get the work as you want it, but will also avoid misunderstandings and overall communication with the graphic designer will be much more efficient.

Here are 10 graphic design terms that you should get familiar with:

Vector graphics

We are surrounded by vector graphics, but as we were never told what those are, we don’t really pay attention to it. Vector graphics are computer-made images and illustrations created by points, lines, curves, and shapes. The best part of vector graphics is that it allows zooming it as big or as small as you want, and the image quality won’t change and lines and shapes will remain smooth. Most common vector files include .ai, .eps or .pdf at the end (don’t worry if you don’t know what this means, we’ll explain it in this post)

So next time your designer asks for “the vector file of your logo” you know what he’s talking about.

Brand identity

Brand identity is the visible elements that represent their brand or company to customers. This includes logo, color palette, business cards, uniform design, packaging, and everything that identifies and tells apart one brand from another.


Usually known as font, typography is the art of arranging letters and characters, in both digital and printed design. Typography is not just the style of the text, it also includes the alignment, positioning, color and how letters are presented.


These are two different color systems. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and it’s used when printing images. RGB means Red, Green, and Blue and it’s the system related to monitors and digital cameras.

So, when to use which? If you’re going to print something like business cards, magazines, flyers, you need to use CMYK. But if it’s something to be seen only digitally like a website, newsletter, presentation, posts for your social media, use RGB.


Resolution is the quality and amount of details in an image. Basically, the higher the resolution, the better the quality. High-resolution pictures look clear and low-resolution ones look blurry. It is important to always work with high-resolution images for better design work, especially for printed materials.

White space

Also known as negative space is the “empty” part of a design which is not filled with any graphic elements or content. White space is used to create a minimalistic look and feel and helps the design look clean and less overwhelming. Despite it being called white space, it can be any color.


Opacity refers to how transparent an image or graphic element is. It is expressed as a percentage, being 0% a completely transparent image and at 100% opacity, an element is completely solid. This is typically used for digital design, although it can be used in printed material as well, in that case, you need to use between 10% – 30% opacity in order to make the transparent effect look nicely.

Stock photo

In case you don’t have time to take original photos for your design work or can’t afford a professional photographer, you can use stock images, which are professional royalty-free photography you can find online. They are available for purchase but many sites also offer great quality stock images for free. Some of our favourites are Unsplash and Pexels.


Mock-ups are model images used to showcase how a design will look like on a product or device and are very useful to put a design into context. For example, if you were to choose a t-shirt design, it is not the same to look at it as a flat image or to be presented with an image that would have an actual shirt already with the design on it. This way it is easier to tell if the design works or not and imagine the final result without printing anything.

File types

Depending on the project, you need to use different formats. These are the most common file extensions you might see when working with a graphic designer:

JPG: is one of the most popular and common file formats for photographs, images and illustrations online that can also be used for printing. These files are always square or rectangular and have a background.

PNG: this file type is used commonly online as you can edit them and not lose the quality even with low resolution. They are not appropriate for print but are used digitally as you can use them in a transparent background.

GIF: is a type of file for animated images. It also works with a transparent background and is very common for website banners and interactive emails.

TIFF: it’s an extremely high-quality format used mostly in photography and commercial printing of large images.

PSD: this file format contains elements and images created in Adobe Photoshop software. This is most commonly used by designers and printers. It can only be opened using Photoshop and it is used mainly for editing.

AI: this format is produced by Adobe Illustrator, software to develop vector graphics. It can only be opened using Illustrator and it is used mainly for creating logos, illustrations, and graphics.

EPS: these are individual vector design elements files. EPS files can be opened using Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, or Adobe Photoshop. It is typically used for logo files.

PDF: is a universal file format that preserves the elements such as images, fonts, and graphics of any source document, no matter what application or software was used to create it. It can display documents and graphics correctly in any device, application, operating system or web browser.

HERE you can check our design works, and if you are to decide to work with us on your next design project, you’ll have a chance to use the terms you just learned!

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