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Design Terms

Kerning, tracking, orphan, widows, CMYK, RGB, EEK! We included a few of the more popular design terms and their definitions. Hopefully this will help you decipher our conversations and emails.


The arrangement of type in a readable, visually pleasing format. Typography is the design and use of typefaces that helps to visually communicate an idea.

Body Copy

The text in your project – website content, brochure contents, social posts, all body copy.

Display Type

Type that is designed to grab attention. Think, movie titles, newspaper headlines, advertising captions...


An visual arrangement of design elements that communicate their importance. Example: Headings (level one), subhead (level two), and body copy (level three).


The adjusting of space between two characters of type. Kerning helps to achieve harmonious spacing between characters.


Leading is the space between lines of type. Tight leading can make body copy hard to read while too wide leading can make reading disjointed. The size of type used in the body copy helps define the leading needed.


Tracking is the space between letters. Track bodies of text, is adjusting the space between every letter in a word changing the look of a block of copy. Not to be confused with tracking, which is the adjustment of space between individual pairs of letters.


The height of lowercase letters. The name X-height comes from the height of the letter x in a typeface.


The part of a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height. Examples of ascenders are ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘f’.


The part of a lowercase letter that extends below the x-height. Examples of decenders are ‘g’, ‘j’, and ‘p’.

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Orphans and Widows

Words or short lines that appear alone at the top or bottom of a column of type. Best to check your body copy and remove them.

Serif Type

A typeface with decorative strokes (‘serifs’) at the end of horizontal and vertical lines. Serif typefaces have a more professional, authoritative, and traditional look.

Sans Serif Type

A typeface without the serif strokes. Sans serifs fonts have a modern, cleaner appearance than serif fonts.

Script Font

A typeface that is similar to cursive handwriting. Script typefaces can have an elegant or casual look, depending oh how they were designed.

Slab Serif Type

A thick, blocky serif typeface, used for headlines and titles, but not body copy. Slab serifs have a stronger, and bolder look.


How easy it is to read body copy with the selected font. Legibility depends on the typeface, a simple serif or sans serif font is best for small body copy.


The alignment of elements to obtain balance, order, and a pleasing layout. There are four basic types alignment – center, left, right, and justified.

Pull Quote

A short quote or excerpt pulled from the body copy and used as a design element to highlight a thought or attract interest to the piece.


The selection of colors use in a design or brand.


A one color palette that includes light and dark tones of that color.

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A color palette built from three colors next to each other on the color wheel.


A color palette built from two colors opposite each other on the color wheel.


A color palette created from three colors equally spaced around the color wheel.


Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (CMYK) is a color model used for print. CMYK is a subtractive color, beginning with white and ending with black. The more color added, the darker the results.


Red, Green, Blue (RGB) is a color model used for on-screen. RGB is an additive color, so when mixing colors, we start with black and end with white as more color is added.

Pantone (PMS)

The Pantone Matching System is a standardized color system for printing. Pantone shades are numbered, making it easy to reference and identify shades of color.

Warm Colors

Warm colors make you think of warmth, reds, yellows, oranges, etc. These colors feel cozy, friendly, and cheerful. Add warm tones to a photo by increasing the orange tones in your image.

Cool Colors

Cool colors make you think of cold weather, blues, greens, violets, etc. They create a calm and soothing atmosphere. Add cooler tones to a photo by increasing the blue tones in your image.

Color Theory

The study of how colors make people feel and respond. Certain colors tend to evoke emotions and feelings in people. We associate blue with trust and dependability, that’s why so many corporate companies have blue logos and branding.


A slight change in color from one tone to another. The most common gradients are linear gradients where colors sit on opposite sides of the frame, and a radial where one color sits in the middle, and the other at the edge.

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