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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.

Page Layout

Page Layout


Keylines (Rules) diagramA page layout works with a grid to ensure that all the elements on a page (e.g., for a brochure or catalogue) look like they belong to the same publication or set of advertisements.

Non-printable keylines are often used for one-off layouts but for a regular publication or advertising campaign an actual grid will be set up to reuse for the next edition or advert.

Grids are also used to show where folds appear for example in a 3 fold leaflet.





When designing brochures be aware that the pages are set up to be printed in a different order in order to be right when the brochure is put together after printing.

Also, brochures always come in groups of 4 pages – so 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 etc.

Here is a quick guide to help you plan.

8 page pagination numbers diagram

12 page pagination numbers diagram

16 page pagination numbers diagram

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Paper Sizes

Paper sizes



Paper sizes in the UK are measured in ‘A’ sizes.

A sizes for paper


A sizes schematic landscape





PDF stands for Portable Document Format.

When designers send items for printing, the printer will usually ask for a PDF.

The PDF format enables files to be downloaded via the internet and opened with no loss of clarity.

For those of you who would like more technical info, here is a link to Wikipedia’s PDF page.





Pixelated photo demoPixels are the annoying little squares of colour that give some images and photos that ragged low quality look if they have been saved at too low resolution or if an image, which has been saved as a small image, is stretched to a size bigger than it was saved at.

Pixels are a way that some ‘old school’ graphics programs (e.g., Publisher, Word, Power Point) store images to reduce the file size. They save as Jpegs, PNG, GIF and other formats.

These pixelated files are referred to as ‘bitmaps’.

Vector vs BitmapWhen professional designers work, they use a new type of graphics package called a vector file (SVG – Scalable Vector Graphics) which enables illustrations, logos and other design elements to be saved with no pixelation or loss of quality, however much the image is stretched.

This enables them to create, say, a logo once, and then store it for resizing easily at any time with no loss of quality.

However, the image you receive will be in a PNG or Jpeg format, with the pixels sized to your particular application, e.g., business card size. If you want to then stretch the image to put it on a website, poster or billboard you would have to go back to the designer to get it re-sized or the pixels will become really noticeable.

Vector vs bitmapNote: Trying to re-save a pixelated image as an SVG to try to regain some of the quality won’t work – it is a one way change, so just because a file may be re-saved as an SVG it may actually be an SVG of a Jpeg and will still have pixels. Trust your eyes – not the label!

At Be Your Own Graphic Designer, we train you how to use Vector graphics using a FREE software package. Your images can be used at any size with no pixelisation.  See our website for details of our £10 per month members package.






PNG Checkerboard 1PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics and is called ‘Ping format’ in the trade!

While not being pixel free like Vector files, PNGs do offer a lossless form of data compression combined with reasonably sized data files.

Because of this, PNG files are often used for web graphics where larger file formats may cause slower loading speeds to occur.

The pictures shown here on this website are PNG files.

The other great thing about PNG files is that, like Vector files, they can be saved with transparent backgrounds, which enables the designer to layer up images.

PNG checkerboard 2The transparent background shows up as a grey checkerboard when you save the graphic, but when it is reproduced the checkerboard disappears completely!

See the holiday cottage pictures on the right!





PPI stands for Pixels Per Inch and is the modern replacement for the outdated DPI (Dots per inch) which, until the advent of modern digital photography and printing, was the industry standard measure of sharpness in a photographic image.

Now designers work digitally on screens we measure in PPI (Pixels per inch) NOT DPI which is a pre-digital printers term.

So when you are asked for an image with at least 300 DPI, what they usually mean is 300 PPI.

It’s worth being aware of this difference and to clarify exactly which measurement they are referring to if there is any doubt.

Generally speaking the higher the DPI / PPI the sharper the image.

Primary Colours

Primary Colours



Colour WheelThe Primary colours are Red, Blue and Yellow.

They cannot be made by combining any other colours together.

All other colours are created by blending together the primary colours in varying amounts and adding white or black to vary the saturation, tint and tone of the hue.

See Secondary colours and Tertiary colours for more information.


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