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  • Writer's picturePriya Anand

Graphic Design Glossary for Small Business Owners

Boston Graphic Design Studio has created this glossary to explain common branding terms and elements. Knowing these terms will help you communicate effectively with your graphic designer.

Boston Graphic Design Studio Glossary
Boston Graphic Design Studio Glossary


Branding is the process of creating a distinct identity for a business in the mind of your target audience and consumers. Branding comprises a company's logo, visual design, mission, and tone of voice.

Brand Style Guide:

A brand style guide is a digital rulebook that specifies every aspect of the look and feel of your brand and Logo.

A brand style guide may usually include the following:

The tone of voice: how the brand uses language and emotion (including grammar, abbreviations, and acronyms)

Typography: font styles, sizes, and spacing

Logos: Primary logo, Secondary logo, Brand Mark, and icons

Color palette: primary and secondary colors

Other imagery: photos, illustrations, and artwork

Examples of acceptable use and unacceptable uses.

Brand Identity:

Brand identity is the visible elements of a brand, such as color, design, and logo, that identify and distinguish the brand in consumers' minds.

Brand Mark:

A brand mark is a symbol, element, art design, or visual image that helps immediately recognize a certain company. The Nike swoosh is a well-known and well-liked brand mark.

Color Codes:

The most common color code formats include CMYK, HEX, PMS, and RGB.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black): CMYK is used for printing full-color brochures, flyers, posters, and other print materials.

HEX: Designers use HEX colors in web design. HEX is a six-digital combination of numbers and letters that tells the computer exactly how to display the color.

PMS (Pantone Matching System): Designers and printers use the Pantone Matching System (PMS). Designers often use PMS codes when printing items in one or two colors only.

RGB: Designers use RGB for displaying colors on screens, including on computers, mobile devices, and TVs.

Color Theory:

The color theory explains how humans perceive color and the visual effects of how colors mix, match, or contrast with each other. Using color theory, designers can determine which colors are most effective for conveying a message in various languages, cultures, and learning styles.

Creative Brief:

A creative brief contains project details, including the project's purpose, goals, requirements, messaging, demographics, and other key information.

Design Accessibility:

To design for accessibility means to be inclusive of the needs of your users. This includes your target users, users outside your target demographic, users with disabilities, and even users from different cultures and countries.

Design Specs:

A design specification is a detailed document providing a list of points regarding a product or process. These specs could include required dimensions, resolution (quality), colors, and character styles.

File Types:

AI: Adobe Illustrator design files, type of native file, contains vector images

EPS: Includes individual vector design elements that make up larger vector images

GIF: Animated images, pixel-based

INDD: Adobe InDesign design file, a type of native file

JPEG: Used for quick design previews and web and print photos, pixel-based

PDF: Used for print files and web-based documents, contains vector images

PNG: Transparent images (i.e., no background), pixel-based

PSD: Adobe Photoshop design files, type of native file, pixel-based

SVG: Used for web publishing, contains vector images

TIFF: Used for high-quality printed graphics, pixel-based


Gradients are a popular design trend that gradually blends from one color to another sometimes to additional color(s).


Icons help businesses visually convey meaning to help audiences quickly understand a message.

Mobile Responsive:

Mobile responsive means that the layout and content on your website respond to the size of the screen the person is using. So depending on which device you’re using, the website automatically adjusts to fit the space.

Native File:

A native file is the original design file where a designer created a graphic or image, such as Photoshop (PSD) or InDesign (INDD), or Illustrator (AI). It typically includes design elements, such as layers and text styling, that people cannot edit in other software programs (like PowerPoint).


Pixels are tiny colored squares that, together, form a picture. An image is a higher resolution when there are more pixels per inch.

Privacy Policy:

A website’s privacy policy outlines how your site collects, uses, shares, and sells your visitors' personal information.


A questionnaire is a list of questions used to gather data from the clients to discover the important details that will help me design either their small business logo or brand identity and/or a website that they envisioned. Without this questionnaire, I'd be designing in the dark!

Raster Images:

Raster images use pixels. Common file formats that use pixels are JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, and PSD. These file formats are all raster images.


SEO stands for search engine optimization.


Typography is the art of arranging letters and text to make the copy legible, clear, and visually appealing to the reader.

User Experience (UX):

The user experience is how a user interacts with and experiences a product, system, or service.

User Interface (UI):

UI is a interface that a person uses to interact with a product or service (e.g., visual design, colors, graphic design, layouts, and typography).


Uniform Resource Locator. It's what you type/paste into the little bar at the top of your browser to go to a website.

Vector Images:

A vector graphics file is an image that can be made infinitely large or small without losing quality. Common types of vector graphics include Adobe Illustrator, SVG, and EPS files.


Business owners that learn and understand basic graphic design terminology will form stronger and more collaborative working relationships with designers and design partners. If you have questions about anything mentioned in this post, write us an email.

Want to work with me? Learn about my services.

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