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W 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.





Watermark exampleA watermark is the ‘ghostly’ writing that appears on graphics or photographs you have to pay for.

The watermark is put there to protect the owners intellectual property and prevent you from using the image until the watermark is released.

As with ‘Royalty Free’ images, the owner of the artwork or photograph sells the rights to use an image to you for a ‘one-off’ fee. He or she will then release the watermark and send you the image and you can then use it according to the seller’s terms and conditions.

You do NOT own the image or photograph and the seller can sell it over and over again.

Note: It is illegal to copy and paste images off the internet unless the owner has given you permission to do so, and using watermarked images (especially for business purposes) without paying for them is theft.

Do check out who owns the images you are using – even down to your logo (if you got it designed for you technically the designer owns it – not you) Link to the Intellectual Property Office

Also worth noting is that a program called TinEye does ‘reverse image searches’ – making it easy for anyone to see who actually owns an image posted on the internet.

If you feel you might be accidentally using a ‘not-free’ image, it might be worth checking on TinEye before someone else does!





In graphic design, weight refers to the thickness of a line wherever it occurs.

This can be in type, where many typefaces come in different weights, but also when you are designing you can adjust the weight of the lines you are using as well.

Weights of type diagram

Line Weight

White Space

White space



White 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.

The correct term for this is actually Negative Space because White 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


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