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Words to know when talking with a graphic designer

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Graphic designers have their own language, just like PR people, coders and electricians have their own language. For someone who’s not in the field, these words can be very confusing.

To help, I wrote a list of words and their definitions that people who work with designers should know. Keep in mind, these are the main words I THINK are important to know. If you think of any that I missed, make sure to comment below!

Alignment. The arrangement or position in lines of a text or an image — left, right, centered, etc.


Bleed. A bleed is a printing term that refers to a graphic object or color that goes beyond the edge of the sheet when printed so that when you trim it, there is no white line. In other words, the bleed is the area to be trimmed off.


CMYK. Stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, black, the model used in color printing.


Color Palette. A set of colors used in a design piece.


DPI (Dots Per Inch). A term to describe the measure of sharpness within an image in terms of the print quality. If the number is higher, the sharpness/quality is also higher.

*The terms Dots Per Inch (DPI) and Pixels Per Inch (PPI) are commonly used to describe the resolution of an image.


.EPS or .AI file. These are design file extensions used in vector-based images in Adobe Illustrator. These files can contain graphics as well as text. Vector graphics are easily scalable and can be used at any size without loss of image quality or definition.
High-Resolution Image. An image with an extreme level of sharpness/clarity.


JPEG or JPG. This is a file format used with digital photography and can be used with advertisements or graphics. A .jpg can be used for web (RGB, 72dpi) or print (CMYK, 300dpi).


Pixel. What an image is composed of. Think of it like an atom – it’s the smallest particle of an image. Pixels are often used to describe the size of an image or design for the web. Ex: “Marni, can you create a 350 x 250-pixel ad for me?”


PNG (Portable Network Graphic). PNG is a file format you can use to export your photos or design pieces. The PNG format displays images without jagged, unfocused edges (lossless compression). If your image has text on it and you want to upload it to a social media site, you should export it as a PNG so the image text doesn’t show up fuzzy. PNG files are generally larger than JPEG or JPG files.


PPI (Pixels Per Inch). A measurement of the resolution on a computer display. This is the number of pixels per inch in your image. It will affect the size of your photo and will affect the quality of the output.

*The terms Dots Per Inch (DPI) and Pixels Per Inch (PPI) are commonly used to describe the resolution of an image.


Resolution. The resolution of an image is an important factor of the output quality. In basic terms, it’s the size of an image. The higher the resolution of an image, the less pixelated it will be. DPI (dots per inch) and PPI (pixels per inch) are often used to describe resolution. An image with a 72 resolution or DPI is good for web whereas an image used for print should have a 300 resolution or DPI.


RGB. Stands for Red, Green, Blue. This color model is used for the web.

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