Avenue 25 Lingo: Graphic Design Edition

Lindi Koprivnikar - Art DirectorWritten by: Lindi KoprivnikarArt Director

Graphic design lingo can often be confusing to those outside of the industry. And it’s likely that at some point or another, you’ll find yourself in need of some graphic design services. Here’s a list of some commonly used terms you might come across:

CMYK/RGB (See-Em-Why-Kay / Are-Gee-Bee)

These are two types of color modes. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, and is used in print. RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is used for anything digital. Your computer screen is in RGB. Your business card is in CMYK. These colors, when combined, form the spectrum of glorious colors you see right before your tiny eyeballs.

PMS (Pee-Em-Ess)

This meant something entirely different to me during my angsty teenage years. It stands for Pantone Matching System. Also called “spot color”, it’s the industry standard color matching system. Different from CMYK in that each color has a unique code, allowing you to achieve the same exact color every time you print something. It’s pretty sweet.

4/4 (four-over-four)

This means 4 colors (CMYK) over 4 colors, which is printer speak for a 2-sided full color document. A letterhead, for example, could be 4/0 since they are typically 1-sided with “0 colors” on the back.

Substrate (Sub-straight)

The base material which images will be printed onto - glossy paper, card stock, film, foil, etc.

Bleed (B-leed)

No, not that gross red stuff that is coursing through your veins that should always stay inside your body. In print, bleed refers to the color that extends beyond the border of your document. When you use your at-home printer and it has that white border around it…that’s like, definitely not bleed.

Vector (vek-ter)

Ready to have your mind blown? If you take a vector file and blow it up to the size of a billboard, it will not become pixelated. A vector file is a collection of points, shapes, lines, curves, and colors. Logos should be created this way using a program like Illustrator. Do not create your logo in Photoshop. I repeat, do not create your logo in Photoshop.

Raster (Ras-ter)

Vector’s arch-nemesis. The pixelated punk. Raster images are made up of a set of grid dots called pixels. Each pixel is assigned a color value. A photograph, for instance, is a raster file. The quality or “resolution” of your photo will depend on how much you can scale it until it becomes pixelated or blurry. No, you cannot copy and paste a picture you found on the internet of your favorite cat meme and blow it up to be the size of a poster. It will look like doo-doo.

Typography (ti-pah-gre-fee)

The art of arranging type. Also known as that one thing your graphic designer friend won’t shut up about.

Branding (Bran-ding)

A thing that makes you wanna buy stuff. Branding  is a nebulous concept made up of many elements, rather than just one thing. A logo, for example, is just one crucial part of branding. A variety of things make up an entire brand - and they all deliver the same, consistent message. When done really well - like Apple for instance - people will become entranced by the beautiful branding glory and throw all their money at it! Yay!