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K is for .... Design Terms Glossary

Non-designers Essential Glossary of Design Terms

Every industry, business and profession has its own language and that language can leave you feeling confused and result in lots of misunderstandings.  We thought you might find our Design Terms Glossary useful whether you are using the training in our Members’ section or dealing with a graphic designer directly.

Kerning (the space between the letters)




KerningKerning refers to the white space between INDIVIDUAL LETTERS of type.

Originally, when type was set manually using individual letters the metal type had to be set side by side and no part of it overlapped.

The diagram on the right shows you how this looked.

As you can see, where letters such as A and W are side by side there is an awkward negative space between the letters.

Kerning allows you to reduce this space which makes it easier to read and a lot more pleasant to look at.

Sometimes wide spaced kerning is used either for effect or when JUSTIFYING text.

KerningThis is an example of how adjusting the kerning between letters can effect how it looks and also how easy it is to read.

Knowing how to adjust the kerning when you are designing will give you a lot of flexibility, but do use it with caution.


If you are interested in knowing about adjusting the spaces BETWEEN the lines of type, please see the page called LEADING.


Keylines (Rules) diagram

Keyline (Rule)



A keyline (sometimes called a rule)  is a non-printable line, visible on the screen only, that enables the designer to make sure items are lined up properly on a page.

They can be set up in most graphic design software packages to form grids enabling the precise placement of elements within a design, thus maintaining brand continuity.


K is for Black in CMYK


K is for Black in CMYK-01




Black is one of the colours in the CMYK printing process and is represented by the letter ‘K’.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and is also known as  ‘4 Colour Process‘ printing.

The ‘K’ in CMYK stands for the word ‘KEY’ as, in the 4 colour process, the black plate is called the Key Plate and is the plate to which all the others (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) are aligned.

A popular misconception is that because ‘B’ has already been taken to stand for blue, ‘K’ was chosen to stand for black as it is the last letter and there are no other colours beginning with ‘K’ – this is not the reason but it is a useful way to remember!

It’s Hex code is #000000

For those of you who would like to read about Black in more detail, I have provided a link to Wikipedia’s CMYK page which has lots of technical info on it!

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