Graphic Design Vocabulary For the Rest of Us

Graphic Design Vocabulary For the Rest of Us

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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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).