“We’re looking for a creative solution”
“Can you work your magic on this?”
“We want something more graphic”
As a graphic designer, I often find myself in meetings with clients who have trouble articulating exactly what they want or need. Though it’s a designer’s job to translate his client’s vision, it’s sometimes impossible to decode what they’re trying to express. I usually run into this issue with clients who are unfamiliar with basic, design-related terms that could help them better articulate their goals. Even if you think you’re fairly well-versed in design lingo, it’s best to offer up visual examples to avoid confusion. I love it when a client shows me specific examples of what they like and dislike.
Here are some common terms to help you bridge the language gap between you and your creative team:
- Portrait – A vertical composition
- Landscape – A horizontal composition
- Medium – The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).
- Infographic – A visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data. (Note: “infographic” is not a style. Be specific about how you want it to look.)
- Illustration – A visual explanation of a concept, person, place or thing. (Note: again, not a style. What type of illustration? Crime noir graphic novel? Detailed etching?)
- Contrast – The arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark colors, rough vs. smooth textures, large vs. small shapes, etc.)
- Warm Colors – Hues from red through yellow, browns and tans included.
- Cool Colors – Hues from blue-green through blue-violet, most grays included.
- Primary Colors – Red, yellow, blue
- Secondary Colors – Colors created by mixing two primary colors (orange, green, purple)
- Complementary Colors – Colors located opposite one another on the color wheel. When mixed together, complementary colors produce a shade of gray or brown. (yellow and purple, blue and orange, etc.)
- Monochromatic – A work of art rendered in only one color.
- Color Gradient – A visual technique of gradually transitioning from one color to another (sometimes called a color ramp or color progression)
- Abstract – Art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.
- Figurative – Representing a form or figure in art that retains clear ties to the real world.
- Geometric – Resembling or using the simple rectilinear or curvilinear lines used in geometry.
- Sketch – A rough or unfinished version of any creative work.
- Typeface – A particular design of type. Characters in typefaces include letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and symbols. Common typefaces include Times New Roman, Calibri and Gotham. The term is often confused with font, which is a specific style and size of a typeface (Arial Bold, 12pt).
For definitions of more design-related terms, check out this post from 2016. Remember, if you’re not sure how to verbalize what you want, visual examples are your best friends.