Design Glossary

This dictionary of sorts is written for designers and non-designers alike, this list will help you make sense of any of the graphic design terminology you might not be able to put your finger on.




























Accessibility: The design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities.

Advertising agencies: Teams of creatives hired by clients to build marketing campaigns.

Alternative text (alt text): Text that helps translate something visual, such as an image or graph, into a description that can be read by screen readers.

Apprenticeships: Provides on-the-job training to help people develop real skills.

Assets: Everything from the text and images to the design specifications, like font style, color, size, and spacing.

Assistive technology: Any products, equipment, or systems that enhance learning, working, and daily living for people with disabilities.


Bleed: the printed area overlapping the cut edge of the sheet that will be trimmed off when printed out. In design terms, the bleed is the artwork or background color that extends in to this area, in case the cut made to the design or sheet isn’t exact. It’s a way of ensuring that none of the design gets accidentally cut off or there’s no unexpected borders.

Bias: Favoring or having prejudice against something based on limited information.

Body Copy: The main text that people will read on a design. The body copy refers to the paragraphs, sentences or other text that are the main content in any publication, whether print or digital. Put in real life terms, the body copy of a magazine is the articles themselves rather than the titles, subtitles, authors, etc.

Brand Identity: The visual appearance and voice of a company. The brand identity is made up of everything that relates to the brand—logos, typefaces, color palettes, slogans, tone of voice, website, packaging and other marketing material. When designers talk about ‘branding’, it usually involves developing all aspects of the brand identity.


Call-to-action (CTA): A visual prompt that tells the user to take action, like to click a button.

Character: A letter, number, punctuation mark or symbol..

Client Content: Refers to all materials, information, factual, promotional, or other advertising claims, photography, writings and other creative content provided or required by Client for use in the preparation of and/or incorporation in Deliverables.

Color modification: Features that increase the contrast of colors on a screen, like high-contrast mode or dark mode.

Copyrights: The property rights in original works of authorship, expressed in a tangible medium of expression, as defined and enforceable under U.S. Copyright Law. Exclusive licenses must be in writing, but nonexclusive licenses do not have to be in writing.

Copyright Exclusive Rights: The Copyright Act grants exclusive rights to copyright owners that, together, comprise the bundle of rights known as copyright. Specifically, the law grants copyright owners the following copyright exclusive rights, subject to certain limitations and exceptions: (i) Right to control the reproduction of the work; (ii) Right to control the making of derivative works; (iii) Right to control the distribution of the work; (iv) Right to control the public performance of the work; (v) Right to control the public display of the work; (vi) Right to perform a sound recording publicly by means of digital audio transmission.

Confirmation Bias: Occurs when you start looking for evidence to prove a hypothesis you have.

Competitive audit: An overview of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

Contrast: The arrangement of opposite elements on a page—in other words, when two things on a page are different. This can be light vs. dark colours, smooth vs. rough textures, text color vs. background color. Contrast can be used to create areas of visual interest or even drama within a design.

Customizable text:  A feature that allows users to change how text is displayed in order to read the text more easily.

CYMK: CMYK is a color model that is used for print purposes. CMYK colors begin as white and then get darker as more colors are combined.


Define: The phase of Design Thinking that involves leveraging the insights gained during the empathize phase to identify the problem you’ll solve with your design.

Deliverables: the services and work product specified in the Proposal to be delivered by Designer to Client, in the form and media specified in the Proposal.

Design: Design is the process and art of planning and making detailed drawings of something. The word ‘design’ is used as a verb and as a noun. It refers to the activity, designing, and to the outcome of that activity — the artefacts produced by the designing— which we call designs.

Designer Tools: tools use to developed and/or utilized by Designer in performing the Services, including without limitation pre-existing and newly developed software including source code, Web authoring tools, type fonts, and application tools, together with any other software, or other inventions whether patentable, and general non-copyrightable concepts such as Website design, architecture, layout, navigational and functional elements.

Design Agency: A one-stop shop for the look of brands, products, and services.

Design Research: Answers the question: How should we build it?

Design Sprint: A time-bound process, with five phases typically spread over five full 8-hour days. The goal of design sprints is to answer critical business questions through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with users.

Design Thinking: A UX design framework that focuses on the user throughout all five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Digital Literacy: A user’s level of ability related to using digital information and technologies.

Direct Competitors: Companies that have offerings similar to your product and focus on the same audience.

Design Principles: There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity. These visual and graphic design principles work together to create appealing and functional designs that make sense to users.


Edge case: What happens when things go wrong that are beyond the user’s control.

Empathize: The phase of Design Thinking that involves getting to know your user through research.

Empathy: The ability to understand someone else’s feelings or thoughts in a situation.

Empathy map: An easily understood chart that explains everything designers have learned about a type of user.

Equality: Providing the same amount of opportunity and support.

Equity-focused design: Designing for groups that have been historically underrepresented or ignored when building products.


False consensus bias: The assumption that others will think the same way as you do.

Favicon: A favicon is a small image that represents a website or web page. It’s shown in the browser address bar, bookmarks and the browser tabs. Having a recognizable favicon helps your visitors recognize your website.

Font size: The height of a typeface. It is usually measured in points (8, 10, 12, etc.), from baseline to baseline.

Font weight:  refers quite literally to the thickness of a font, in terms of both an individual font and different styles of a font—black, bold, light etc. Font weight ranges from 100 to 900 with “normal” font being 400 so 100 being extra light or equivalent and 900 being extra black or equivalent. Though, you’ll rarely need to use the numbers as Adobe Creative Cloud and similar programs give the font weight as their names.

Foundational research: Answers the questions: What should we build? What are the user problems? How can we solve them?

Framework: Creates the basic structure that focuses and supports the problem you’re trying to solve.

Freelancers: Designers who work for themselves and market their services to businesses to find customers.


Generalist: A UX designer with a broad number of responsibilities.

Graphic designers: Create visuals that tell a story or message.


Happy path: A user story with a pleasant ending.

Hex: A hex is a six-digit number used in HTML, CSS, and design software applications to represent colors.


Icon: An image that is used to represent objects or actions. One of the most common examples of an icon is a magnifying glass used to signify a search, which is used on Google and countless other websites. 

Ideate: The phase of Design Thinking that involves brainstorming all potential solutions to the user’s problem.

Ideation: The process of generating a broad set of ideas on a given topic, with no attempt to judge or evaluate them.

Implicit bias: The collection of attitudes and stereotypes you associate with people without your conscious knowledge.

Inclusive design: Making design choices that take into account personal identifiers like ability, race, economic status, language, age, and gender.

Indirect competitors: Have a similar set of offerings but focus on a different audience, or have a different set of offerings and focus on the same audience.

Information architecture: The framework of a website or how it’s organized, categorized, and structured.

Insight: An observation that helps you understand the user or their needs from a new perspective.

Interviews: A research method used to collect in-depth information on people’s opinions, thoughts, experiences, and feelings.

Interaction designers: Focus on designing the experience of a product and how it functions.

Iterate: Revise the original design to create a new and improved version.

Iteration: Doing something again, by building on previous versions and making tweaks.


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Critical measures of progress toward an end goal.


Logomark: A logo of a company that does not contain the brand name itself—usually a shape or character used to visually represent the company. Logomarks are more easily shown than described, so think of Twitter’s bird (which in case you didn’t know is called Larry after basketball legend Larry Bird) or Apple’s iconic apple with a bite.

Logotype: Also known as a wordmark, a logotype is a brand name styled as a logo (in letters only)—designed in a visually unique way for a company. They’re usually very obvious and quickly associate a business with its visual identity. Some famous and recognisable examples include Disney, Coca Cola and Google.

Lorum Ipsum: Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text used by the design industry. It’s used as placeholder text and has a more-or-less average distribution of letters, making it look like readable English, as opposed to using ‘Add content here, add content here’ within designs when the copy isn’t quite ready.


Mockup: A mockup is a high-fidelity render of your design that showcases how the finished product will look.

Motion designers: Think about what it feels like for a user to move through a product.


Pain points: UX issues that frustrate the user and block the user from getting what they need

Palette: A color palette comprises of colors that can be utilized for any illustration or design work that represents your brand. The chosen colors should be designed to work harmoniously with each other.

Personas: Fictional users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users.

Platform: The medium that users experience your product on.

Post-launch research: Answers the question: Did we succeed?

Primacy bias: Remembering the first user more than others.

Primary research: Research you conduct yourself.

Print-ready: A term used in the printing industry to describe a PDF that has been correctly prepared so that it can be printed by a commercial printer. 

Problem statement: A clear description of the user’s need that should be addressed.

Product: A good, service, or feature.

Product development lifecycle: The process used to take a product from an idea to reality.

Production designers: Make sure first and final designs match in the finished project materials and that the assets are ready to be handed off to engineering team.

Prototype: An early model of a product that demonstrates functionality and gives your stakeholders a taste of the final version.


Qualitative research: Focuses observations on why and how things happen.

Quantitative research: Focuses on data that can be gathered by counting or measuring.


Raster: Raster images are made up of a set grid of pixels. This means when you change the size of stretch a raster image it can get a little blurry and lose some clarity.

Readability: Degree to which text can easily be read.

Regency bias: Most easily remembering the last thing you heard.

Resolution: Refers to the number of units, measured in either DPI or PPI, that occupy a linear inch an image, both on screen and in print. Resolution is used to denote the quality of an image—it can generally be assumed that the higher the resolution, the better the quality of the image. You can tell if the resolution is too low as the image will appear blurry or pixelated.

Responsive web design: A design approach that allows a website to change automatically depending on the size of the device.

Retrospective: A collaborative critique of the team’s design sprint.

Revision: Refers to any changes made to a design after the first draft is created. It can be as simple as changing a few pictures or major changes such as the correction of a design direction.

RGB Color: a model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. RGB tends to be used for on-screen purposes.

Royalty: The term ‘royalty’ defined under the ITA 1967 includes payments for the use of or the right to use copyrights, know-how or information concerning technical, industrial, commercial or scientific knowledge, experience or skill to a non-resident. Where the definition of royalty provided in a DTA differs from that of the ITA 1967, the DTA definition shall prevail. Payment for the use of, or the right to use copyrights of intangible products such as (a) Downloading of a digital product to a customer’s hard disk or similar media. (b) Licensing arrangements to reproduce, modify and adapt, the absence of which would constitute an infringement of copyright.


Screen reader: Software that reads aloud any on-screen text, interactive elements, or alternative text.

Secondary research: Research that uses information someone else has put together.

Serial position effect: When given a list of items, people are more likely to remember the first few and the last few, while the items in the middle tend to blur.

Service charge: A service charge is a fee collected to pay for services related to the primary product or service being purchased. The charge is usually added at the time of the transaction. Many industries collect service charges, including restaurants, banking, and travel and tourism.

Speech to text: Software that allows users to compose text by speaking into their device.

Specialist: A designer who dives deep into one particular type of user experience, like interaction design, visual design, or motion design.

Sprint Brief: A document that you share with all your attendees to help them prepare for the sprint.

Subscription Payment: Recurring payments” “reference transactions” “preauthorized transfers” or “preapproved payment.”

Startup: A new business that wants to develop a unique product or service and bring it to market.

Style guide: A set of standards for the design of anything related to your brand, whether it’s a website landing page, business card or printed document. The reason to have a style guide is to ensure complete uniformity in style and formatting wherever the brand is used to ensure no dilution of that brand.

Sunk cost fallacy: The idea that the deeper we get into a project we’ve invested in, the harder it is to change course.

Surveys: An activity where many people are asked the same questions in order to understand what most people think about a product.

Switch device: An assistive technology device that replaces the need to use a computer keyboard or a mouse.


Test: The phase of Design Thinking that involves facilitating and observing user tests with your design prototypes.

The human factor: Describes the range of variables humans bring to their product interactions.

Third-Party Materials means proprietary third-party materials which are incorporated into Final Deliverables, including without limitation stock photography or illustration.

Thumbnail: A small, rough sketches of how a designer wants their design to look—they can be used to help decide upon a layout or how a design will come together. They’re usually done by hand in the very early stages of a design so all the different options can be explored before any work is done on a computer.

T-shaped designer: A designer who specializes in one kind of user experience (e.g., interaction, visual, motion) and has a breadth of knowledge in other areas.


Universal design: The process of creating one product for users with the widest range of abilities and in the widest range of situations.

Usability study: A technique used to evaluate a product by testing it on users.

User: Any person who uses a product.

User-centered design: Puts the user front-and-center.

User experience: How a person, the user, feels about interacting with, or experiencing, a product.

User group: A set of people who have similar interests, goals, or concerns.

User journey: The series of experiences a user has as they achieve a specific goal.

User story: A fictional one-sentence story told from the persona’s point of view that inspires and informs design decisions.

UX engineers: Translate the design’s intent into a functioning experience.

UX program managers: Ensure clear and timely communication so that the process of building a useful product moves smoothly from start to finish.

UX research: Understand users and learn about their backgrounds, demographics, motivations, pain points, emotions, and life goals.

UX researchers: A type of researcher that conducts studies or interviews to learn about the users of a product and how people use a product.

UX writers: Create the language that appears throughout a digital product, like websites or mobile apps.


Vector: A graphic image that is made with mathematical equations—they’re defined in terms of 2D points connected by lines and curves to form shapes. Basically this means that vectors can be resized or scaled to any size without losing quality or getting blurry.

Visual designers: Focus on how the product or technology looks.

Voice control: Allows users to navigate and interact with the buttons and screens on their devices using only their voice.


White space: Often known as negative space, refers to the area of a design left blank. It’s the space between graphic elements, images, copy, and anything else on the page. Even though it’s known as white space, it can be any color.

Wireframe: An outline or a sketch of a product or a screen.

Working files: all underlying work product and digital files utilized by Designer to create the Preliminary Works and Final Works other than the format comprising the Final Deliverables.


X-Height: Refers very literally to the height of a lowercase x in a specific font. You may question why such a specific height is so important, but the x-height affects the proportion of any font and, in turn, its legibility. It can generally be assumed that as the x-height increases, legibility improves.