How to Speak Like a Graphic Designer

How to speak like a graphic designer

The industry of graphic design is similar to other industries in that once you become comfortable and have experience in the field you may confuse those around you with what comes off as a foreign language. Whether you are a designer or an account manager, it may feel as though everyone knows what you’re talking about, but in reality, it’s likely they don’t. Below are some key vocabulary words that are important to break down to your clients, friends and family to help them to understand your rambling.


Branding is a term used often by designers and individuals in the field of marketing. This term is often confused with the more familiar term “logo.” Although a logo is a part of the company brand, the brand of a company is the combination of a number of various elements, like your business cards and website, that make up the identity of the company.


CMYK is the acronym for the colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (or black). This color mode is used for the process of print. Any magazines, newspapers, flyers, etc. are created in CMYK mode prior to being printed. RGB is the acronym for red, green and blue. This color mode is used for screen output. Anything that will be viewed from a computer screen – such as a website – is to be saved in the color mode of RGB.

Raster Images:

A raster image (or bitmap image) is made up of pixels, tiny squares that, when put together, result in the color/form of an image. Think of a bunch of mosaic tiles brought together to produce one image. Due to raster images being made up of pixels, you are limited to the size of enlargement of the image in order to retain quality of resolution. Photographs are an example of raster images. If you zoom/enlarge a photograph enough you will eventually see thousands of tiny little squares which make up the image. Adobe Photoshop is the software most often used in editing a raster image to manipulate the various properties of the pixels.

Vector Images:

Vector images are made up of points that join together to form paths. Vector images are created in the Adobe Illustrator program and can be resized to any size without losing any quality/resolution. Due to vector images not being made up of thousands of small pixels like a raster image, this is the recommended format for logo design, which should be scalable without distortion.


Resolution is a term that is also often confusing due to the two acronyms used to determine the resolution of an image. PPI stands for “pixels per inch” to measure the pixel density on a given area, which results in the actual resolution/size of an image. DPI is the acronym for “dots per inch,” which results in the quality of the printed product. The industry standard for DPI when it comes to printed materials is 300. Printers convert the image, which appears on a screen as PPI, to tiny dots (DPI) composed of the four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). DPI measures the density of the thousands of dots. These terms are only used for raster images due to them being composed of pixels.

Although these are only a few of the many terms used in the design field on a weekly basis, it’s always important to remember each industry has a lingo. No matter the industry, we should always take into consideration that those we communicate with might need a little more information on the topics being discussed.

Julie Dickinson is a graphic designer at Imagine Communications. Contact her at

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