It’s been said that art is in the eye of the beholder and what it is that makes it art may be difficult for that beholder to communicate in tangible terms. Having said that, it might be because the beholder is not necessarily schooled in the specific artistic terms where they can speak art and, instead, prefer to just be moved and attracted to it for art’s sake.

That’s great when visiting a museum, but what about when you want to work with a graphic designer to create a website, brochure, or other type of collateral that requires graphics and design elements? The often subjective reaction by clients can make it a real challenge for a graphic designer to know what it is that the client wants the designer to achieve or emulate from another example.

To help you speak the same language so your partnership with a graphic designer can be as clear as possible, here is the first part of a Design Terms 101 tutorial developed around the technical terms involved in the graphic design process:

  • Form: This is the shape and structure of a particular object. This is taken to mean the whole of what is visible to the person looking at it so that the viewer can determine how those elements are united and what type of message that sends. For a graphic designer, this means determining the best way to capture the entire message, shapes, and structure of what the client wants to transmit to customers or potential customers.
  • Texture: This describes any textures used as background elements, such as gradients, sand (which is a photo), or lines that give the design a distinct sense or depth.  It also can describe why text flows into a page in a certain way in order to create what is known as a visual texture.
  • Contrast: This is the difference between any light and dark areas in an image, page, or website. If the tonal range offered is wide throughout an image, this means that there will be a smaller range of contrast seen. A smaller tonal range in the light and darkness, there will be a greater contrast. This often works well to add dramatic effect or as a device to draw the reader’s eye to a particular aspect of the design for greater marketing impact.
  • Font: A font is the style of the text in terms of a specific way the letters, numbers, and special characters look. While some fonts are closely set together, others are flowery or look like script. Two basic styles of font are serif and sans-serif.  Times New Roman, Georgia, and Garamond are a few examples of serif fonts while Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana are examples of sans-serif. The font changes the look and feel of the page and, most importantly, impacts the readability. It’s important to pick a font that is easy on the eyes so that people will want to read a Web page or brochure.

Essentially, a graphic designer is looking for clients to provide some overreaching feedback on what they like in relation to these terms so that similarities in layout, colors, photography and other elements can be pinpointed and then emulated in order to achieve a successful project and satisfy you as the client.

Next up, we’ll look at color, hierarchy, negative space and the concept of style among other design concepts in the second part of our Design Terms 101 tutorial. Be sure to also suggest any other terms that you are not familiar with so that we can also address these concepts.

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