Glossary of
Design Terms

On this page, you will find a glossary of design terms, a compilation of the industry’s most frequently used design terms. This extensive glossary serves as a reference tool only.

At Digital Marketing, we strive to deliver precise information but do not accept responsibility for any inaccuracies in the terms listed below.

You can also find a Glossary of common Printing Terms here.

Digital Marketing Design Services

– A –

Alley: the space between columns within a page. Not to be confused with the gutter, which is the combination of the inside margins of two facing pages.

Ascender: in typography, the parts of lowercase letters that rise above the x-height of the font, e.g. b, d, f, h, k, I, and t.

– B –

Banner: the title of a periodical, which appears on the cover of the magazine and on the first page of the newsletter. It contains the name of the publication and serial information — date, volume, number.

Baseline: in typography, the imaginary horizontal line upon which the main body of the letters sits. Rounded letters actually dip slightly below the baseline to give optical balance.

Bit-mapped (mode): the Paint graphics mode describes an image made of pixels where the pixel is either on (black) or off (white).

Black (font): a font that has more weight than the bold version of a typeface.

Bleed: an element that extends to the edge of the page. To print a bleed, the publication is printed on oversized paper which is trimmed.

Block quote: a long quotation — four or more lines — within body text, that is set apart in order to clearly distinguish the author’s words from the words that the author is quoting.

Body type: roman — normal, plain, or book — type used for long passages of text, such a stories in a newsletter, magazine, or chapters in a book. Generally sized from 9 point to 14 point.

Byline: in newsletter/magazine layout, a credit line for the author of an article.

– C –

Callout: an explanatory label for an illustration, often drawn with a leader line pointing to a part of the illustration.

Camera-ready copy: final publication material that is ready to be made into a negative for a printing plate. May be a computer file or actual print and images on a board.

Cap height: in typography, the distance from the baseline to the top of the capital letters.

Caption: an identification (title) for an illustration, usually a brief phrase. The caption should also support the other content.

Character: any letter, figure, punctuation, symbol or space

Clip art: ready-made artwork sold or distributed for clipping and pasting into publications. Available in hard-copy books, and in electronic form, as files on disk.

Color separation: the process of creating separate negatives and plates for each color of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) that will be used in the publication.

Color spacing: the addition of spaces to congested areas of words or word spacing to achieve a more pleasing appearance after the line has been set normally.

Column gutter: the space between columns of type.

Comprehensive layout (comp): a blueprint of the publication, showing exactly how the type will be set and positioned, and the treatment, sizing, and placement of illustrations on the page.

Condensed font: a font in which the set-widths of the characters is narrower than in the standard typeface. (Note: not the inter-character space — that is accomplished through tracking).

Continuous tone: artwork that contains gradations of gray, as opposed to black-and-white line art. Photographs and some drawings, like charcoal or watercolor, require treatment as continuous-tone art.

Copy: generally refers to text — typewritten pages, word-processing files, typeset galleys or pages — although sometimes refers to all source materials (text and graphics) used in a publication.

Copyfitting: the fitting of a variable amount of copy within a specific and fixed amount of space.

Counter: in typography, an enclosed area within a letter, in uppercase, lowercase, and numeric letterforms.

Crop marks: on a mechanical, horizontal and vertical lines that indicate the edge of the printed piece.

Cropping: for artwork, cutting out the extraneous parts of an image, usually a photograph.

Cutlines: explanatory text, usually full sentences, that provides information about illustrations. Cutlines are sometimes called captions or legends; not to be confused with title-captions, which are headings for the illustration, or key-legends, which are part of the artwork

– D –

Descender: in typography, the part of the letterform that dips below the baseline; usually refers to lowercase letters and some punctuation, but some typefaces have uppercase letters with descenders.

Dingbat typeface: a typeface made up of nonalphabetic marker characters, such as arrows, asterisks, encircled numbers.

Discretionary hyphen: a hyphen that will occur only if the word appears at the end of a line, not if the word appears in the middle of a line.

Display type: large and/or decorative type used for headlines and as graphic elements in display pieces. Common sizes are 14, 18, 24, 30, 36, 48, 60, and 72 point.

Dither: for digital halftones, the creation of a flat bitmap by simply rutning dots off or on. All dots are the same size there are simply more of them in dark areas and fewer of them in light areas — as opposed to deep bitmaps used in gray-scale images.

DPI (dots per inch): the unit of measurement used to describe the resolution of printed output. The most common desktop laser printers output a 300 dpi. Medium-resolution printers output at 600 dpi. Image setters output at 1270-2540 dpi.

Duotone: a halftone image printed with two colors, one dark and the other light. The same photograph is halftoned twice, using the same screen at two different angles; combining the two improves the detail and contrast.

– E –

Egyptian type: originally, from 1815 on, bold face with heavy slabs or square serifs.

Em space: a space as wide as the point size of the types. This measurement is relative; in 12-point type an em space is 12 points wide, but in 24-point type an em space is 24 points wide.

En space: a space half as wide as the type is high (half an em space.

Expanded (font): a font in which the set widths of the characters are wider than in the standard typeface. (Note: not the intercharacter space — that is accomplished through letterspacing — but the characters themselves).

Extended type: typefaces that are wide horizontally — Hellenic, Latin Wide, Egyptian Expanded, Microgramma Extended, etc.

– F –

Facing pages: in a double-sided document, the two pages that appear as a spread when the publication is opened. See Recto, Spread, Verso.

Feather: to insert small amounts of additional leading between lines, paragraphs, and before and after headings in order to equalize the baselines of columns on a page.

Folio: a page number, often set with running headers or footers.

Font: a set of characters in a specific typeface, at a specific point size, and in a specific style. “12-point Times Bold” is a font — the typeface Times, at 12-point size, in the bold style. Hence “12-point Times Italic” and “10-point Times Bold” are separate fonts.

– G –

Galleys: in traditional publishing, the type set in long columns, not laid out on a page. In desktop publishing, galleys can be printed out using a page-assembly program, for proofreading and copyfitting purposes.

Greeked text: in page-assembly programs, text that appears as gray bars approximating the lines of type rather than actual characters. This speeds up the amount of time it takes to draw images on the screen.

Gray-scale image: a “deep” bitmap that records with each dot its gray-scale level. The impression of greenness is a function of the size of the dot; a group of large dots looks dark and a group of small dots looks light.

Gutter: In double-sided documents, the combination of the inside margins of facing pages; the gutter should be wide enough to accommodate binding.

– H –

Halftone: in traditional publishing, a continuous-tone image photographed through a screen in order to create small dots of varying sizes that can be reproduced on a printing press. Digital halftones are produced by sampling a continuous-tone image and assigning different numbers of dots, which simulate different sized dots, for the same effect. See Dither, Gray-scale images, TIFF.

Halftone screen: in traditional publishing, the screen through which a continuous-tone image is photographed, measured in lines per inch. Although digital halftones are not actually photographed through a screen, the term is still used to describe the size of the dots; the larger the dots (fewer lines per inch), the more grainy the image. Special screens can be used for special effects. See Mezzotint, Solarization.

Hang indent alignment: type set so that the first line is flush left and subsequent lines are indented.

Hard hyphen: a non breaking hyphen, used when the two parts of the hyphenated word should not be separated. As opposed to a soft (or normal) hyphen, on which the word-wrapping function of a program will break a line.

Hard return: a return created by the Return or Enter key, as opposed to a word-wrap, or soft return, which will adjust according to the character count and column width.

Head: a line or lines of copy set in a larger face than the body copy.

Hyphenation zone: For ragged-right text, an arbitrary zone about 1/5 to 1/10 of the length of the line; if a long word is not hyphenated and leaves a gap within that zone, discretionary hyphens are used to fill the line.

– I –

Image area: the area on a page within which copy is positioned; determined by the margins.

Italic: any slanted or leaning letter designed to complement or be compatible with a companion roman typeface. See Oblique.

– J –

Justified alignment: See Right-justified alignment.

– K –

Kern: to squeeze together characters, for a better fit of strokes and white space. In display type, characters almost need to be kerned because the white space between characters at large sizes is more noticeable.

Kicker: a brief phrase or sentence lead-in to a story or chapter; usually set smaller than the headline or chapter title, but larger than text type.

Knockout: in printing, when one color is to be printed immediately adjacent to another color; actually they are printed with a slight overlap. See Lap register.

– L –

Landscape (orientation): a page or layout that is wider than it is tall.

Lap register: used with knockouts, images of different colors are slightly overlapped, to avoid the appearance of a white line between the two inks.

Leader: a line of dots or dashes to lead the eye across the page to separated copy.

Leading: (pronounced “led-ding”) the space between lines of type, traditionally measured baseline-to-baseline, in points. Text type is generally set with one or two points of leading; for example, 10-point type with 2 points of leading. This is described as 10/12, read 

ten on twelve.: Letterforms: in typography, the shapes of the characters.

Ligature: in typography, characters that are bound to each other, such as “oe” and “ae.” In professional typefaces, the lowercase “f” is also often set as a ligature in combination with other characters such as “fi” and “fl.”

Light (font): a font that is lighter than the roman (normal, plain, or book) version of the typeface.

Line art: black-and-white artwork with no gray areas. Pen-and-ink drawings are line art, and most graphic images produced with desktop publishing graphics programs can be treated as line art. For printing purposes, positive halftones can be handled as line art.

Logotype: a symbol, mark, or identifying name.

– M –

Majuscule: a capital letter.

Miniscule: a lowercase letter.

Masthead: the credit box, headed by the publication name, that lists sponsors, editors, writers, designers, illustrators, photographers, and others, along with the publication office address, subscription and advertisinginformation, etc.

Measure: (noun) in typography, the length of a line, even if the line is not filled with characters (such as a centered or partial line), designated in picas. When the text is set in columns, the line length is called columnmeasure.

Mezzotint: for a halftone, a special screen that produces connected, dusty-looking dots.

Moiré patterns: (pronounced “mo-ray”) irregular plaid-like patterns that occur when a bit-mapped image is reduced, enlarged, displayed, or printed at a resolution different from the resolution of the original. See Scaling.

Monospaced type: a (typewriter) typeface in which the amount of horizontal space taken up by each character is the same.

– N –

Negative space: in design, the space where the figure isn’t — in artwork, usually the background; in a publication, the parts of the page not occupied by type or graphics. See White space.

Nested stories: in newsletter/magazine layout, stories run in multiple columns at different column depths.

– O –

Objected-oriented (mode): the Draw graphics mode. A set of algorithms describe graphic form in abstract geometrical terms, as object primitives, the most fundamental shapes from which all other shapes are made: lines, curves, and solid or patterned areas.

Oblique type: characters that are slanted to the right; sans serif typefaces often have oblique rather than true italics, which are a separate font.

Offset printing:for high-volume reproduction — utilizes three rotating drums: a plate cylinder, a blanket cylinder, and an impression cylinder. The printing plate is wrapped around the plate cylinder, inked and dampened. The plate image is transferred, or offset, onto the blanket cylinder. Paper passes between the blanket cylinder and the impression cylinder, and the image is transferred onto the paper.

Orphan: in a page layout, the first line of a paragraph separated from the rest of the paragraph by a column or page break. Headings without enough type under them may be considered as orphans; there should be as much type below the heading as the height of the heading itself, including white space.

– P –

Pasteup: the process of preparing mechanicals — in traditional publishing, positioning and pasting type and graphics on a board (and overlays). In desktop publishing, page-assembly software enables the user to do electronic pasteup.

Pica: a measurement used in typography for column widths and other space specifications in a page layout. There are 12 points in a pica, and approximately 6 picas to an inch.

Pixel (picture element): the smallest unit that a device can address. Most often refers to display monitors, a pixel being the smallest spot of phosphor that can be lit up on the screen.

PMS (Pantone Matching System): a standard color-matching system used by printers and graphic designers for inks, papers, and other materials. A PMS color is a standard color defined by percentage mixtures of different primary inks.

Point: a measurement used in typography for type size, leading, and other space specifications in a page layout. There are 12 points in a pica, and approximately 70 points to an inch.

Posterization: for a halftone, the reduction of the number of gray scales to produce a high-contrast image. See Gray-scale image, Halftone.

Printer font: high-resolution bitmaps or font outline masters used for the actual laying down of the characters on the printed page, as opposed to display on the screen. See Screen font.

Process color separation: in commercial printing, used for reproduction of color photographs. The various hues are created by superimposition of halftone dots of the process colors: cyan (a greenish blue), magenta (a purplish red), yellow, and black. See Color separation.

Proportionally spaced type: a typeface in which the set width (horizontal space) of characters is variable, depending on the shape of the character itself and the characters surrounding it. SeeSet width.

Pull quote: a brief phrase (not necessarily an actual quotation) from the body text, enlarged and set off from the text with rules, a box, and/or a screen. It is from a part of the text set previously, and is set in the middle of a paragraph, to add emphasis and interest.

Punctuation block: in right-justified or right-aligned text, several consecutive lines that end with punctuation and make the right margin look uneven.

– Q –

– R –

Ragged right alignment: type set so that the extra white space in a line is set at the right, giving the text a ragged margin. Usually set with flush left.

Recto: in a double-sided document, the page that appears on the right side of the spread; an even-numbered page.

Resolution: the crispness of detail or fineness of grain in an image. Screen resolution is measured in dots by lines (for example, 640 x 350); printer resolution is measured in dpi (for example, 300 dpi).

Reverse: white or light-colored type of images on a dark background.

Right-justified alignment: type set so that the text runs even on the right margin as well as on the left margin; the extra white space is distributed between words and sometimes between characters on the line.

Rivers: spaces between words that create irregular lines of white space in body type, particularly occurs when the lines of type have been set with excessive word spacing.

Roman type: book weight, regular, or in desktop publishing systems, called plain or normal type — used for the body type in a text-intensive publication.

Rough: a refined thumbnail sketch for a publication design, done at actual size, with more detail. Roughs are often used for the first client review.

Rule (ruling line): a geometric line used as a graphic enhancement in page assembly — the term is used to distinguish ruling lines from a line of type.

Run-around: type that is set to fit the contour of an illustration, photo, ornament or initial.

Run-in heading: a heading set on the same line as the text, usually in bold or italic type.

Running heads/feet: titles (often accompanied by page numbers) set at the top/bottom of text pages of a multipaged publication.

– S –

Sans serif typeface: a typeface that has no serifs, such as Helvetica or Swiss. The stroke weight is usually uniform and the stress oblique, though there are exceptions.

Scaling: reduction or enlargement of artwork, which can be proportional (most frequently) or disproportional. In desktop publishing, optimal scaling of bitmaps is reduction or enlargement that will avoid or reduce moiré patterns.

Screen font: low-resolution (that is, screen :resolution) bitmaps of type characters that show the positioning and size of characters on the screen. As opposed to the printer font, which may be high-resolution bitmaps or font outline masters.See Printer font. Screen (tint): in graphic arts, a uniform dotted fill pattern, described in percentage (for example, 50 percent screen).

Script: connected, flowing letters resembling hand writing with pen or quill. Either slanted or upright. Sometimes with a left-hand slant.

Serif: in a typeface, a counterstroke on letterforms, projecting from the ends of the main strokes. For example, Times or Dutch is a serifed typeface. Some typefaces have no serifs; these typefaces are called sans serif.

Set width: in typography, the horizontal width of characters. Typefaces vary in the average horizontal set width of each character (for example, Times has a narrow set width), and set widths of individual characters vary in typeset copy depending on the shape of the character and surrounding characters.

Sidebar: in newsletter/magazine layout, a related story or block of information that is set apart from the main body text, usually boxed and/or screened.

Small caps: capital letters set at the x-height of the font.

Solarization: a photographic image in which both blacks and whites appear black, while midtones approach white.

Solid: lines of type with no space between the lines (unleaded).

Spot color separation: for offset printing, separation of solid premixed ink colors (for example, green, brown, light blue, etc.); used when the areas to be colored are not adjacent. Spot color separations can be indicated on the tissue cover of the mechanical, or made with overlays.

Spread: in a double-sided document, the combination of two facing pages, which are designed as a unit. Also, the adjacent inside panels of a brochure when opened.

Standing elements: in page design, elements that repeat exactly: from page to page, not only in terms of style, but also in terms of page position and content. The most commonly used standing elements are page headers or footers, with automatic page numbers.

Standoff: the amount of space between a clock of text and a graphic, or between two blocks of text that wrap. See Text Wrap.

Stress: in a typeface, the axis around which the strokes are drawn: oblique (negative or positive) or vertical. Not to be confused with the angle of the strokes themselves (for instance, italics are made with slanted strokes, but may not have oblique stress).

Stroke weight: in a typeface, the amount of contrast between thick and thin strokes. Different typefaces have distinguishing stroke-weight characteristics.

Style sheet: in desktop publishing program, style sheets contain the typographic specifications to be associated with tagged text. They can be used to set up titles, headings, and the attributes of blocks of text, such as lists, tables, and text associated with illustrations. The use of style sheets is a fast and efficient way to insure that all comparable elements are consistent. See Tags.

Subhead: a secondary phrase usually following a headline. Display line(s) of lesser size and importance than the main headline(s).

Subscript: a character slightly smaller than the rest of the font, set below the baseline; used in chemical equations and as base denotation in math, and sometimes as the denominator of fractions.

Superscript: a character slightly smaller than the rest of the font, set above the baseline, used for footnote markers and sometimes as the numerator of fractions.

– T –

Tabloid-sized page: a page that measures 11″ x 17″ — most often used in portrait orientation for newspapers. Not to be confused with an 11″ x 17″ spread, which is made up of two letter-sized pages.

Tags: for style sheets, delimited sets of characters embedded in the text or internally coded. Tags apply to paragraphs (text terminated with a hard return — this includes titles and headings) and indicate the 

function: of paragraphs. The actual type specification depends on the style sheet that is associated with the tag. See Style sheet.

Template: in page design, a file with an associated style sheet and all standing and serial elements in place on a master or base page, used for publication following the same design.

Text wrap: the spatial relationship between blocks of text and graphics, or between two blocks of text. A text wrap may be rectangular (most commonly), irregular, or arbitrary. See Standoff.

Thumbnails: miniature pictures sketched as first design ideas, like thinking on paper (or on screen).

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format): for digital gray-scale halftones, a device-independent graphics file format. TIFF files can be used on IBM/compatible or Macintosh computers, and may be output to PostScript printers. See Gray-scale image, Halftone. Tiling (tile): printing a page layout in sections with overlapping edges so that the pieces can be pasted together.

Tombstoning: in multicolumn publications, when two or more headings in the same horizontal position on the page.

Track: in typography, to reduce space uniformly between all characters in a line. As opposed to kerning, which is the variable reduction of space between specific characters.

Type alignment: the distribution of white space in a line of type where the characters at their normal set width do not fill the entire line length exactly. Type maybe aligned left, right, centered, or right-justified.

Typeface: the set of characters created by a type designer, including uppercase and lowercase alphabetical characters, numbers, punctuation, and special characters. A single typeface contains many fonts, at different sizes and styles. See Font.

Type families: a group of typefaces of the same basic design but with different weights and proportions. See Light, Black, Condensed, Expanded.

– U –

U&lc: abbreviation for upper- and lowercase.

Unit: in typography, divisions of the em space, used for fine-tuning the letterspacing of text type. Different typesetting systems and desktop publishing software use different unit divisions: 8, 16, 32, and 64 are common. One unit is a thin space or a hair space.

– V –

Verso: in a double-sided document, the page that appears on the left side of the spread; an odd-numbered page.

– W –

Weight: denotes the thickness of a letter stroke, light, extra-light, “regular,” medium, demi-bold, bold, extra bold and ultra bold.

White space: in designing publication, the areas where there is no text or graphics — essentially, the negative space of the page design.

Widow: in a page layout, short last lines of paragraphs — usually unacceptable when separated from the rest of the paragraph by a column break, and always unacceptable when separated by a page break.

Word wrap: in a word processor or text editor, the automatic dropping of characters to the next line when the right margin is reached.

WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get): an interactive mode of computer processing, in which there is a screen representation of the printed output. WYSIWYG is never entirely accurate, because of the difference in resolution between display screens and printers.

– X –

x-height: the height of the lowercase “s.” Sometimes referred to as “body height.” More generally, the height of the lowercase letters.

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