Graphic Design Language 101

Last month, we talked about some of the terms that a graphic designer uses and which help to frame how the final product will turn out. We shared these with the hope that gaining an understanding of graphic design “speak” may help you to more effectively describe what you would like to have as a website, brochure, or logo. In speaking the same language, you are bound to create something that is closer to want you want and do so quickly without so many revisions.

Previously, you learned about some artistic terms like form, texture, contrast and font. Now, in this month’s article, you’ll learn about some other commonly used graphic design terms.

  • Negative space: This is the space that surrounds the items, such as a product photo or illustration or even the type, in the actual design.  It’s also known to some people as restful space because a good use of negative space makes the design easier to remember or enjoy rather than using up all this space with unnecessary clutter that distracts.
  • Color: This describes any hue, such as red, green, or blue. And, like that box of crayons you used to play with (or still do!) there are many shades of a color, making it a highly subjective process. For example, what one person might call burgundy, another might say is garnet or wine. Even though you may realize this, what still happens all too often is that clients assume that there is just one standard for each color on the color wheel in the graphic designer’s palette. Just like color changes from how it looked as a paint sample to how it looks covering all four walls of a room, color is also different between the print process and a computer screen. For instance, one person’s computer screen might show red as more orange red than a real red. Too often clients also have their heart set on the exact shade of green that they’d like to see only to be disappointed when they print it out.  To better describe what color would work, there are several systems of color commonly used. This includes the Pantone Matching System (PMS) for print and the Hexadecimal System for the Web.
  • Hierarchy:  This term relates to the largest item in a design that should be read or given attention first. From there, the hierarchy continues with the next largest all the way down to the smallest item.  Most often, hierarchy is used in print pieces and can easily be seen if you pick up a news paper. For example, headlines are larger than the text followed by subheads and captions.
  • Style: This consists of color, font, negative space, photo style and, sometimes, illustrative components. Each item needs it own “default.”  Once all items are created, many designers will provide their clients with a style guide. On the Web, it’s usually a stylesheet that controls normally used call-outs. In print, it’s a printed or Web-based document that calls out everything from the font style to the proper Pantone Matching System color and hexadecimal colors used in a design. It’s important to maintain a style in order to develop a consistent brand image. Otherwise, people are less likely to trust a direct mail piece if it doesn’t have the consistent brand image that they have come to identify you from.
  • Brand: This is the implementation of a style consistently over time.  Companies like McDonald’s, Nike, and Coca-Cola are all recognized by their brand image.  Without consistency, you are simply left with a collection of varied styles. Brands can change as often as every 3-5 years (usually in relation to technology or Web trends) or as long as every 20 years. This primarily depends on the company and its core audience. For example, the older the audience or more professional the audience, the longer a brand sticks around.

Now that you are more familiar with some of the commonly used graphic design terms and how they are used, it’s time to put them to practice. Contact Simons Studios for your next graphic design project today and see what it’s like to speak their language.

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