5 Key Terms Every Graphic Designer Should Know

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Before enrolling in school to earn a degree in graphic design, you should learn a few basics. By doing so, you can confirm that you are, indeed, interested in pursuing graphic design as a career. If nothing else, learn a few common graphic design terms. You’re sure to encounter them on your very first day, so learning them ahead of time will pay off.

Five terms every graphic designer should know include:

1. Hero Graphic

Upon hearing this term for the first time, you may envision clip art depicting superheroes and the like. However, graphic designers use this term when referring to a large, important graphic that a client uses again and again. Oftentimes, a hero graphic is a logo. It doesn’t always have to be, though. It just has to be an important image that comes into play repeatedly. Due to its importance, particularly special care should be taken while designing it. Also, the client should be completely satisfied with it and positive that it should be used to represent their company all over the place.

2. Raster and Vector Images

A raster image, or bitmap image, consists of thousands of pixels whose arrangement determines the shape, color and form of the image. Photographs are raster images because they are made up of thousands of pixels. While you can manipulate the color and other properties of pixels in a raster image, there are only so many to go around. For this reason, resizing a raster image can be problematic. If you enlarge a raster image, Photoshop and other programs add additional pixels, which degrades quality. If you make one smaller, pixels are removed, and the result is the same.

Vector images are made up of points with specific X/Y coordinates. The points are joined together to create shapes that can be filled with colors. Vector images can be resized without any effect on quality. Complex shapes, gradients and other touches can be added to them. Because they are so richly detailed and scalable, vector images are widely used for logos.

3. DPI and PPI

These terms refer to resolution. DPI, or dots per inch, is used for printed output and refers to how many dots are printed per inch. The more dots per inch, the better the quality. Meanwhile, PPI is used for digital output and stands for pixels per inch. As you’ve probably surmised, it refers to how many pixels appear per inch. The more pixels there are in an inch, the crisper and clearer the quality will be.

4. CMYK and RGB

Both of these terms refer to color modes that are used for digital and printed images. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key–key stands for black. These are the typical colors used on printing presses. Pantone colors, or fifth colors, may be added using separate plates. For screen or digital output, RGB, or red, green and blue, is the preferred mode. It closely mirrors what the eye sees when looking at an image, and many more colors come into play for richer, crisper images.

5. Serif

Graphic designers deal extensively with fonts, so it helps to know the differences between serif and sans serif. In a serif font like Times New Roman, lines cross the endings of strokes. They’re sometimes called tips or wings. Serif fonts are most commonly used in printed media like newspapers. Sans serif fonts like Helvetica don’t have the extra line and therefore have a more contemporary aesthetic. They work well on the Internet and other digital media.

Although these are far from the only terms you’ll need to know while learning graphic design, they’ll get you off to a great start. Learn as much as you can about each term to make the most of your first day of graphic design school.

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