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24 Basic Graphic Design Terms For Non-Designers

Enjoy this new post on 24 graphic design terms for non-designers.

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. A lot of people lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are having a hard time recovering. As a result, some people have decided to use the pandemic as an opportunity to start a business. This new wave of entrepreneurs has also increased the demand for creative people.

I reached out to my network of freelancers to find out what services brought in the most business. The most common responses were graphic design, web design and social media management. The increased demand for these services isn’t surprising when you consider how easy it is to start an online business. I’ve personally experienced a boost in logo design and web design requests during the pandemic. Of course, these businesses are trying to build an online customer base and would need a recognisable logo among other things.

Related: 9 Great Elements of a Professional Business Card

graphic design terms for non-designers |man using camera
More and more people are moving away from 9-5 workdays and are starting their own businesses. Credits:

Design jargons and clients

Most clients are normal, hardworking people with limited technical knowledge. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of design jargon will fly over their heads.

I remember speaking to a client a while back about her logo design, and she asked me if I could send her the source files over email to which I agreed. The client quickly responded to my email asking for clarification on what a vector file was and how to open one. I understood her frustration and tried to explain what a vector file was and what programs supported them. Namely, the key differences between vector and raster files and how to open them.

In hindsight, I should’ve laid out what these terms meant at the start of the project so we didn’t have any confusion. I used this experience to completely revamp my client onboarding process.

Poor communication

I always see those Instagram posts trashing clients about misunderstanding technical terms. But, if you think about it, the misunderstanding would be the designer’s fault. The designer has a responsibility to explain these terms to the client in a way they would understand.

Graphic Design memes that mock clients for not understanding graphic design terms

Poor communication is a big problem in the creative industry. Creatives often expect clients to know what “CMYK” “vector” and “PNG” means. This often causes confusion and ruins the customer experience. So, I want to do my part by explaining 24 basic graphic design terms for non-designers. So, the next time a designer uses jargon, try some of these words and impress them with your knowledge 😎😎 .

Graphic design terms for non-designers

Vector Image

Vectors are image files made from mathematical equations and code. Compared to rasters, Vector files have the unique feature of being able to scale infinitely with no quality loss.

Raster Image

A raster image is a file format made up of pixels that are assigned a colour value. In raster images, the more pixels an image contains the higher its resolution. Unfortunately, raster images cannot scale infinitely without quality loss.

Ai (Adobe Illustrator)

An Ai file format stores the raster images, text and shapes that make up a photoshop design. Any designer with Adobe Illustrator can access and edit ai files. Illustrator works with vector images and is not suitable for raster images like photographs. Adobe Illustrator also has the ability to scale vectors infinitely as it uses mathematical equations rather than pixels.

PSD (Photoshop Document)

A PSD file format stores the raster images, text and shapes that make up a photoshop design. Any graphic designer with access to photoshop can open and edit a PSD.

INDD (InDesign Document)

An INDD file stores the raster and vector images, shapes and text that make up a layout. Any graphic designer with access to InDesign can open and edit an INDD. Designers frequently use InDesign to work on text-heavy projects.

INDD files only work with Adobe InDesign so you will need to buy the program to edit this format.

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic)

An SVG file is a vector graphic format used primarily on websites. Like other vector formats, an SVG scale infinitely as it made up of code rather than pixels.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

A PDF is a file format developed by Adobe to present documents, including text and images. The file format supports both raster and vector images, text formatting and shapes. PDFs work well for print projects.

Popular software that works with PDF files includes Adobe Photoshop, Sumatra PDF and Adobe Acrobat.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG is the most common image format on the internet and is used to store photographs. If you are planning to share the final designs on social media, this is the format you would use.

Popular software that works with JPEG files includes your default gallery, Faststone Photo viewer and Irfanview.

PNG (Portable Network Graphic)

A PNG is a raster file format that uses lossless compression to transfer images across the internet. The key difference between a PNG and JPEG is the lossless compression and alpha channel (transparent background).

Popular software that works with JPEG files includes your default gallery, Faststone Photo viewer and Irfanview.


WEBP is a brand new raster image format created by Google for the modern web. The core advantage of WEBP is that it uses lossless and lossy compression to deliver smaller images on the web.


A design style that creates a gradual transition between two or more colours across the surface of a shape. Common types of gradients include linear, radial and diamond. You can create gradients in almost every design program.


A typeface is the design of lettering that can include variations, such as bold, regular, light, condensed, extended, etc. Each of these variations of the typeface is a font. Examples of typefaces include Arial, Times New Roman and Calibre.

An easy way to differentiate between font and typeface is that the typeface is the collection and font is a piece of that collection.


A font is a collection of all the characters of a typeface in one size and one style. Common examples of fonts include bold and italic, but you can find others like 800, 300 and extended. The word font has gotten so popular that people often use it to refer to typefaces. We can see this with popular services like google fonts, Dafont and Font Squirrel that include it in their names. Examples of fonts include Arial bold, Times New Roman Italic and Calibre Body.

Read More: 8 FREE Masculine Google Fonts For Your Next Project


The copy is literally the graphic design term for text. Copy covers headlines, paragraphs, contact information, descriptions and anything text related you want to include in your design.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, which are the primary colours that make up the pixels on screens. A designer uses this format when working primarily on digital designs.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key)

CMYK is the four colour printing process used to print out your design in the real world. A designer uses this format when working primarily on designs that will be printed.


A mockup is a graphical representation of the final design in the real world. Mockups allow you to see how your design would look in the real world without you spending money on printing.

Mood Board

A mood board is a collection of ideas that are used to inform others of the overall feel that a designer is trying to achieve.


A serif font is a font that has the little feet at the bottom of every letter. Serif fonts are traditional, formal and suited for printed material like books and newspapers.

Sans Serif

A sans-serif font is a font that does not have the little feet at the bottom of the letters. Sans-serif means “without serif”. Sans-serif fonts are modern, friendly and best suited for use in digital media.


A wireframe is the skeleton of your website. UX/UI designers use wireframes to plan out where elements will go on the webpage. Professional web designers often create wireframes before they start building your site. That way, you can see the layout and ask for changes before its too late.


Lettermarks are logos that use letters, usually the brand initials. Examples of lettermark logos in Jamaica include NCB, KFC, DMH and TSW.


Wordmarks are logos that are a stylistic version of the companies name. Examples of Wordmark logos include Saudicka Diaram Show, Nail it Malli and Buzzz Caribbean Lifestyle Magazine.

White Space

The art of leaving space or ‘gaps’ between elements to create breathing room in the overall design. Whitespace reduces clutter and makes it easier for the reader to understand the information. I know you want to make the most of your money by using all the space, but please restrain yourself.

I hope this list of 24 basic graphic design terms for non-designers proved to be useful. The next time you talk to your designer try using some of these words in the conversation.

What graphic design terms did you learn today? Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Are you looking to get a job as a freelance graphic designer? Read 5 great ways to find jobs as a Jamaican Freelance Graphic Designer

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