When you first begin working with a graphic designer, it might seem at times that we have a language all our own – and we do! Like any industry, we liberally use words, phrases, abbreviations and acronyms that mean very little to people outside the profession. So we thought it would be helpful to provide you with a list of terms that you might come across and what they mean.

Accent colour
Although we advocate never using more than one or two colours for your brand design (more is too fussy), we do sometimes add a small amount of a third colour to give it a bit more ‘ooomph’, when it feels right. This is called an accent colour.

Brand assets
If we’re using an existing brand we might ask you to send us your brand assets. Basically, if we ask you for these, we need things like your company logo, the fonts, colours and any images you use on a regular basis. This is to ensure that any work we produce for your business stays true and consistent with your brand design. Consistent brand use is crucially important to business success – see my previous blog to find out why.

Brand guidelines
When you invest heavily in a brand design that is going to be used extensively, a designer will probably provide you with a set of brand guidelines. This ensures your brand assets are used consistently on all your marketing communications.

This is an abbreviation of the colours Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black) which are used in colour printing. When we supply brand assets like your company logo, we will provide you with a CMYK version so you can give them to anyone who is doing some print work for you, eg, business cards, letterheads, corporate stationery and brochures.

Colour palette
You might hear designers talk about your brand’s colour palette. These are the shades and tones of colours that a designer might suggest as a good fit with your brand, eg, a bold colour palette might consist of dark, strong colours like deep reds and purples. We believe that the colours you use in your company’s brand design speak volumes about your brand.

Colour swatch
A small sample of a colour.

If we ask you to supply some copy we’re referring to the words that are going to be used to accompany your graphics.

Vector file
For top quality reproduction, we may ask you to supply us with a vector file. This is the best type of image file format we can use, particularly for print work and exhibition design, because no matter how small or big the image has to be, it will always look perfect. We admit that we don’t understand the science behind it (so don’t ask!), we just know that we can use a vector file on a vehicle, an exhibition stand or a business card and it will keep its proportions and image quality. If you are unsure, look for the following filename extensions (the bit after the dot):

.ai (Adobe Illustrator)
.pdf (Portable Document Format)
.eps (Encapsulated PostScript)

There are other vector file formats but these are the ones the majority of my customers have.

White label work
When we tell people we’re in the midst of white label work they think either we’re spending our time designing white labels or using it as a euphemism for taking to the bottle! I’m pleased to say that white label work is neither of these things. It is in fact a term used to describe putting a company’s brand on something that has been manufactured by someone else. Think of the big retailers and their own brand products.

This is a colour classification system invented in the early 1960s to help designers and companies make sure the correct colour is used consistently in brand communication. Each shade is given a number which a designer may ask you for. For a full history of the company and what it does visit the Pantone website.

These are the colours red, green and blue which are used in digital applications. When we supply brand assets like your company logo, we will provide you with an RGB version so you can use it on your website, social media channels and any other digital communications you might use.

Serif and Sans Serif fonts
Serifs are the little dangly bits on the ends of letters like you see in Times New Roman font. Sans is French for without, thus Sans Serif means without serif. Arial is probably one of the most well-known sans serif fonts, ie, no dangly bits.

Our clients seem to like our friendly and down-to-earth approach to business and we know they appreciate that we don’t set out to bamboozle them with design jargon – that’s why so many keep us on a monthly retainer. Inevitably however, the odd jargony word might just slip out. If you don’t understand anything, never be afraid to ask us what it means.