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N 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.

Negative Space

Negative space


Negative space is a term used by designers to describe areas within a design or on a page where there is just blank space with no words or illustrations in it at all.

Often called ‘white space’, negative space does not have to be white, but it does have to be empty.

Professional designers know the importance of leaving plenty of negative space in a design, and non-professionals do tend to give the game away by trying to cram too much onto a page at once.

Just as it is important to be aware of how elements of the design are aligned and work with each other, it is also important to be aware of the effect of the negative space on the overall design as well.

In the examples below, you can see how the negative space on each of the first 4 brochure covers is working to draw attention to the graphics and gives a sense of quality to the cover.

It is also apparent that in image 5, the negative space is fighting the design resulting in a bad layout.

Alignment examples in a row






Noise ExampleNoise in design terms is the formation of groups of random uniformly coloured pixels in low quality bitmap images.

When photos and illustrations are saved into a bitmap (e.g., PNG) or lossy (e.g., Jpeg) format the information is stored as pixels to reduce the file size and to make it compatible with software.

Each pixel is made up of a colour and at high resolutions (normally 300 dpi/ppi or above) this results in a high quality image.

However, as the resolution goes down, for example to 170 dpi/ppi, or even lower, the file size gets smaller but the pixels get bigger resulting in loss of quality.

The pixels save on storage space by grouping together to make bigger pixels and have to ‘choose’ a colour to become based on the colours in the group.

Noise is created when pixels in a certain area of a photo or image ‘choose’ to save as a colour that is completely wrong for that area of the picture and can result in unexpected (and irreversible) speckles, flares and polarized effects.

Vector graphics (e.g., SVG ) do not have this problem as they do not have pixels, but while illustrations are perfect for saving as vectors (and this is the preferred file type all professional graphic designers use to save their originals in), it is still preferable to save photographs as high resolution Jpegs or PNGs.






Know your Nodes.

Vector graphics have nodes – put simply, these are the points which connect the lines which create the shapes.

NodesIt’s a bit like join the dots for designers!

  • You need at least two nodes to form a line.
  • You need at least three nodes to form an enclosed shape.
  • There is no limit to the number of nodes you have.
  • Nodes can be at points or on curves.

Nodes are movable, addable, deletable and really useful to get the hang of!


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