44 Design Terms and Techniques Explained

We all love designers because they can add visual appeal to just about anything, but sometimes they speak in a language all their own. We have compiled a glossary of design terms and design techniques so you can understand what they are talking about. Check out our design glossary below.

Design Terms



The area outside of the design. It keeps the design from running off the page.

White Space

The “nothingness” or blank area between lines, figures, and text. It helps to keep the eye from getting overwhelmed.


The relationship of size between one object and another.


The intersecting lines (vertical, horizontal, and angular) used to structure the content. A grid makes it easier to map out the placement of content on a page or the shapes used in the design.


The arrangement of objects to portray relative importance. Everyone subconsciously recognizes cues such as size and position, so the designer uses them to emphasize the more important objects, ensuring that the audience will naturally pay attention to them.


The two pages that face each other when you open a book.

Lorem Ipsum

A dummy text that designers use as a placeholder for copy that is not yet available.

Pull Quote

A short quote meant to get the attention of the reader that is generally in a different typeface or otherwise set off from the surrounding text.


The written material on a page.


A set of fonts with common design features.


Refers to the surface quality of an object—whether it looks fuzzy, rough, smooth, shiny, etc.

Color Theory

The idea that using certain colors together will create certain visual effects. Knowing color theory can help a designer create the desired emotional responses in an audience.


The intensity or purity of a color in the design.


Those colors opposite each other on a color wheel.


Three colors that are evenly spaced apart on the color wheel.


Three colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel.


A color scheme that consists of either one color or values of one color.


This design concept is sometimes also called transparency, which means how much light can pass through an object.


The set of colors, based on color theory, used throughout the entire project.


The color mode most commonly used in digital formats. Red, green, and blue are mixed to create any desired color.


The color mode most commonly used in print projects. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are mixed to create any desired color.


Most simply explained as picture quality. Resolution is important because it determines how much an image can be enlarged and still look good.


When an image has high resolution or density. Each picture is made up of pixels and the more pixels per inch a picture has, the better the image quality will be.


When an image has low resolution or density. The fewer pixels per inch a picture has, the poorer the image quality will be.


Dots per inch in the output resolution of a printer or imagesetter (a high-quality printer that prints on glossy paper). The higher the DPI, the better quality the printed picture is.


The length and width of a digital image, usually measured in pixels, but sometimes measured in inches or centimeters.


Art that uses mathematic equations and basic geometric shapes to create clean images that you can scale as much as you want without losing quality.


This art is composed of pixels and is typically used for photographs or photorealistic images.


A file format that designers can use for raster or vector images.


A format for compressing image files that is generally used for color, grayscale, or monochrome images.


A format for saving graphics without losing quality, generally used for images on websites.


Refers to a bare-bones outline of the project, which the designer presents to the client for review, feedback, and approval before proceeding with the full project.


The final size of the printed page after the excess edges have been cut off.


An extension of image or color beyond the trim. It ensures that even if the printer cuts the page slightly beyond the trim, the image or color will still show right to the edge of the page.


This file format is used to send designs with text and images to ensure the content appears the same when viewed with different software or operating systems.

Design Techniques


A design technique referring to the ability to adjust the space between two letters.

Rule of Thirds

This design technique is when you divide a picture or page into thirds with vertical and horizontal lines. Whatever you want the audience to focus on should go where the lines intersect.


A directional change in the intensity of color in a design. An example would be a shape that is deep red at the bottom and transitions gradually into a light pink at the top.


A design technique for a printing process that leaves an imprint of the design in the paper.


The placement of opposite elements near each other to create interest and focal points in a design. Common contrasts are between light and dark colors, smooth and rough textures, and small and large shapes.


When a high-resolution image is presented in a lower resolution and has pixelated or jagged lines around the edges, anti-aliasing smooths out those jagged edges with a slight discoloration to melt them together.


The top, bottom, sides, or middle of the text is lined up with the graphic elements on a page.

Foil Stamping

During the printing process, a metallic or pigmented foil is applied to a solid surface with a heated die so the foil permanently adheres to the surface.

Die Cut

A design technique that uses a thin steel blade that has been formed to a specific pattern to cut paper. It is a way to make the edges of the paper, cardstock, label stock, plastic, etc., into a zigzag or whatever non-straight shape you want.
Hopefully, this design glossary has been helpful in translating some of the things a designer might talk to you about. If you were hoping to figure out how to design something yourself from this design glossary and realized it’s more difficult than you thought, give us a call! We have an amazing design team that would love to help make your project a beautiful reality.