Graphic Design Terms: A to Z Glossary

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Common graphic design terms to know for certification prep, interviewing, and resume writing.

Graphic Design Terms

Graphic design is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The field is considered a subset of visual communication and communication design, but sometimes "graphic design" is used synonymously. Graphic designers create and combine symbols, images, and text to form visual representations of ideas and messages. They use typography, visual arts, and page layout techniques to create visual compositions, commonly for branding, advertisements, web design, and publications. This glossary is a foundational tool to familiarize you with standard graphic design terms, enhancing your understanding and expertise in the industry.

Graphic Design Terms

Common graphic design  terms to know for certification prep, interviewing, and resume writing.


Alignment refers to arranging text and graphics to ensure a cohesive and balanced visual appearance. It helps in creating a sharp, ordered appearance for designs.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between the width and height of an image or screen, which is crucial when designing layouts or digital content to ensure compatibility across different displays.


Bleed is a printing term for graphics or design elements that extend beyond the print edge of your design piece. It ensures that no unprinted edges occur in the final trimmed document.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is the visible elements of a brand, such as color, design, and logo, that identify and distinguish the brand in consumers' minds. It's a fundamental concept in branding and advertising design.

Call to Action (CTA)

A call to action is a design element, often a button or link, that prompts the user to take some desired action, such as "Click Here" or "Learn More." This is particularly important in web design, advertising, and other media to generate user interaction.


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black) and is a color model used in color printing. The CMYK model works partially or entirely by masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected.


Contrast in design refers to the arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark colors, smooth vs. rough textures, significant vs. small shapes, etc.) to create visual interest or draw attention to particular design elements.

DPI (Dots Per Inch)

DPI is a measure of the resolution of a digital print and is the number of dots that can be placed in a line within the span of 1 inch. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution of the print or image, which contributes to its clarity and sharpness.

Grid System

A grid system is a structure comprising a series of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines used to arrange content. It is a fundamental skill for graphic designers as it provides a logical layout template, helping to organize graphic elements on a page.


In graphic design, hierarchy guides the viewer's eye to different elements in order of their importance, usually through different sizes, colors, or placements.


An infographic is a visual representation of information or data that combines data visualization, images, and text to present information quickly and clearly.


Kerning refers to the adjustment of space between characters in typesetting. This process is essential to avoid visually uneven gaps between letters and to create a harmonious appearance.


A mockup is a scale or full-size model of a design used for teaching, demonstration, design evaluation, promotion, and other purposes. Mockups are commonly used to create realistic representations of the design to review its functionality and appearance.


Opacity refers to the transparency level of an element in a design. Lowering the opacity makes the element more transparent and makes underlying design elements more visible.


A palette is a range of colors the designer uses in the layout and design of images and documents. Color palettes help to create style and appeal.


A pixel is the smallest unit of a digital image or graphic that can be displayed and represented on a digital display device. Pixels are the basic building blocks of digital images, and when combined, they create a complete image.

Raster Images

Raster images are digital images created or captured (as in a photo) as samples of a given space. A raster image file identifies which coordinates to illuminate in monochrome or color values. The raster file is sometimes called a bitmap because it contains information directly mapped to the display grid.


Resolution in graphic design refers to the clarity and detail of an image, typically measured in DPI (Dots Per Inch) for printed materials and PPI (Pixels Per Inch) for digital images.

Sans Serif

Sans serif fonts are typefaces without the small projecting features called "serifs" at the end of strokes. They are often used for their clean, modern look in design.


Saturation describes the intensity of color in an image or design. High saturation means the colors are rich and vivid, while low saturation indicates more muted colors.


Typography is the art and technique of arranging type, designing type, and modifying type glyphs. It involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line spacing (leading), and letter spacing.

Vector Images

Vector images are graphics defined as 2D points connected by lines and curves to form polygons and other shapes. They are scalable without losing resolution, making them ideal for logos and other designs that may need to be resized frequently.

White Space (Negative Space)

White or negative space refers to the areas of a design that are not filled with content. It's an important design element that helps to create visual balance and focus attention by providing breathing room around graphic elements.

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