Glossary of Design Terms

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debossing

A process for producing depressed or sunken designs on paper or similar substrates. This is done through a stamping process where a metal die is pressed into the substrate, forming a specified shape. This is commonly used as an alternate for embossing in substrates which are too thick for the male/female die combination needed to emboss, such as a book case cover.

deckle edge

Irregular, ragged edge on hand-made papers or the outside edges of machine-made paper when specifically designed to be ragged. This is used as a design feature on some hardback books, especially when communicating “old” or “weathered.”

decorative face

Also called decorative font. A very distinctive typeface, occasionally including pictures of objects or animals in addition to text. Decorative faces are mostly used in advertising to help express a message, theme or feeling through visual means. They should not be used as a text face. An example of a decorative face is CancioneITC.

depth by focus

Also called focal depth and sometimes incorrectly called Depth of Field (DOF). Things which are near are sharp. Things that are far are a bit blurry. In photography, this can be emphasized intentionally with only the center of attention being in focus and the entire background being a blur with only suggestions of shapes.

depth by lateral movement

This is the perception of depth by lateral (meaning from side to side) movement. This is most common when an observer is on a moving object (such as a train), wherein objects that are close move by quickly and objects that are far away (such as mountains) move by slowly.

depth by light

This is simply the perception of depth created by light. Any shaded image has this, with highlights indicating surfaces that are closer to or facing the light source in the scene. In ambient lighting conditions, where the scene is being lit by the sky, something closer to the viewer will be darker whereas farther objects will be lighter.

depth by light as shadow

This is the perception of depth created by light as shadows. This is the opposite side of the coin to light and is evident in any shaded image. Those areas which are facing away from the light source are drawn in with shadows.

depth by linear perspective

This is perspective by which parallelisms of lines are plotted to withdraw to a common point of infinity “behind” the picture. These lines are always within or outside the frame of view but it is always “behind” the picture within it or to the left, right, above or below it—but always at an infinite distance away from the viewer. Perspective can actually be plotted and drawn in with a ruler from the infinite point forward and it will give the planes, lines and lack of parallelism to rectangles, etc.

depth by solidity

Solidity of shapes is another form of depth perspective. Shapes which are closer to the observer are more solid and become less solid as they become more distant from the observer.

depth of field (DOF)

In optics, particularly photograph and film, the depth of field is the portion of a scene that appears sharp in the image. Although a lens can precisely focus at only one distance, the decrease in sharpness is gradual on each side of the focused distance, so that within the DOF, the unsharpness is imperceptible under normal viewing conditions. Depth of field can be anywhere from a fraction of a millimeter to near infinity. In some cases, such as landscapes, it may be desirable to have the entire image sharp while in other cases, for artistic considerations, may dictate that only a part of the image be in focus, emphasizing the subject while de-emphasizing the background. In cinematography, a large DOF is often called deep focus and a small DOF is often called shallow focus. The intentional use of a shallow focus is also referred to as selective focus or differential focus.

descender

That portion of a character which goes below the baseline, such as the vertical line at the bottom of a lower case “q” or the loop at the bottom of a “g”. Characters that usually have descenders include g, j, p, q, y and also the italicized f. Capital letters usually do not have descenders except the Q in some fonts, such as Baskerville—Q. This compares to ascender.

design

1. The artful format that will interest and lead the viewer to involvement in and finally desire to act (to attain, to meet a challenge, to acquire, to achieve, etc.). 2. As a verb, to design refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system or component with intention. Design is often viewed as a more rigorous form of art, or art with a clearly defined purpose. The distinction is usually made when someone other than the artist is defining the purpose. For example, a graphic designer may design an advertisement poster. This person’s job is to communicate the advertisement message (functional aspect) and to make it look good (aesthetically pleasing).

die

A specialized tool used in manufacturing to cut or shape material using a press. Like molds and stencils, dies are generally customized to the item they are used to create. In graphic design, a die most commonly refers to the copper, bronze or magnesium tool used in foiling and embossing.

display face

Also called display font. In the days of metal type, Display Face referred to fonts which were 14pt or larger. With the advent of computers—where any font could be set at 14pt or larger—Display Face refers specifically to fonts which are designed for use in headlines or titles. They should attract the attention of the reader and work in cooperation with the text face. Some large families, such as Minion Pro and Neutra, have display versions of the typeface. A good example of a commonly used display font is Trajan.

dissemination

Spreading or scattering broadly. Dissemination in an organizational sense means making broadly known the materials, services and results of the organization through books, promotional material, letters, films or other media or activities, including word of mouth.

document profile

This is a profile that defines the specific RGB or CMYK color space of a document. By assigning, or tagging, a document with a profile, the application provides a definition of actual color appearances in the document. For example, R=127, G=12, B=107 is just a set of numbers that different devices will display differently. But when tagged with the AdobeRGB color space, these numbers specify an actual color or wavelength of light; in this case, a specific color of purple.

down-res

Also called downsampling. To decrease the resolution of a file using an image editing program such as Photoshop. Because the number of pixels available to show an image is proportional to its quality, when you down-res an image you are degrading its overall quality. Compare to up-res.

DPI

A term meaning Dots Per Inch. This represents the total number of dots in the horizontal and vertical directions that a printer puts onto paper (or the printing substrate). The DPI measurement of a printer often needs to be considerably higher than the pixels per inch measurement of a video display in order to produce similar-quality output. This is due to the limited range of colors for each dot available on a printer. At each dot position, the simplest type of color printer can print a dot consisting of a fixed volume of ink in each of four color channels (CMYK). With various combinations of ink, a printed dot can have one of 8 unique colors. This compares to a computer screen, where each pixel can produce one of 16 million unique colors. In order for a printer to produce variable colors it must use a halftone process. Thus, in effect, it requires a printer 4 to 6 dots to faithfully reproduce the color contained in a single pixel. A 300 PPI image would require a printer DPI setting of 1,800 to be reproduced as it is seen on the screen (300 x 6).

dummy

A scrap paper expression of the idea. Includes in the same package the written materials or words (called copy), all surveys used, captions, photos and atwork. This is the preliminary layout of a printed piece, showing how the various elements will be arranged.

dust jacket

Also called book jacket, dust wrapper or dust cover. The detachable outer cover of a book, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers. Often the back panel or flaps are printed with biographical information about the author, a summary of the book or critical praise. In addition to its promotional role, the dust jacket protects the book covers from damage. The first dust jackets, from the late 1820s and early 1830s, completely enclosed the books like wrapping paper and were sealed shut with wax or glue. In the 1850s, dust jackets were introduced that wrapped the casing only (in the style of modern dust jackets). However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the dust jacket moved from being solely protective to becoming the outside face of the book. Due to the economics of doing highly decorated casings, the decorations moved to the dust jackets, with these becoming more and more attractive and in the 1920′s and 1930′s, becoming a part of the book—not just thrown out at the point of purchase.

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