Glossary of Design Terms

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fine art

Describes an art form developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept rather than utility. Today, the fine arts commonly include visual and performing arts forms, such as painting, sculpture, music, dance, theatre, architecture, photography and printmaking. However, in some cases fine art and frequently the term fine arts (plural) are associated exclusively with the visual art forms. Art is often a synonym for fine art in this sense, as employed in the term “art gallery”. Historically, the fine arts were limited to painting, sculpture, architecture and engraving.


The surface properties of paper or a printed product, such as matte, satin, gloss, spot varnished, rough, etc.


That which completes or gives a finished appearance to any kind of work. It includes the cutting, collation, folding and binding, stapling or stitching of the printed sheets, to make a finished product. In the production of covers, it also refers to the other common procedures of lamination, coating, foiling and embossing.


A printed advertisement intended for broad distribution. It is a piece of paper printed on both sides that can be folded so that it can fit into a standard letter-size envelope. A flier doesn’t have to teach anything, it merely has to create want. Fliers are full of punchy short lines that deliver exactly what you mean. It is an exclamation point in advertising—it isn’t a discussion.


A very thin sheet of metal, usually made by hammering or rolling a piece of metal. With a film-backing, foil is used as a decorative element for product packaging and cover designs. Such foil is usually aluminium with a coloring on top of it (to make it gold, bronze, copper, etc.) however can also be made from real gold for use in decorating high-end leatherbound casings or other similar products.

foil stamping

This is the application of foil as a decorative element to paper or a similar substrate. This is done through a stamping process where heat and pressure are used to adhere the foil onto the substrate. Typically a foil stamping machine operates at a temperature of 230° and uses pressures between 10 and 50 tons per square inch. The same machines that are used for foil stamping can also do embossing. (See illustration under embossing.)


Page number. Also refers to a sheet of paper folded once to form two leaves (four pages) of a book.


Originating from the word “found”—as in type foundary—a font is traditionally a complete set of type characters of the same design, style and size. For example, 10 point Baskerville Old Style Bold Italic is a font. On a computer, however, although each font is a unique design and style, any size can be rendered from a single font file. Compare to typeface and type family.


A broad categorization of papers that are free of pulp produced from a mechanical grinding process. Chemicals, rather than grinding, are used to reduce the pulp to fibers. Wood chips are cooked in chemical baths which remove the undesirable ingredients. Most of the paper-making ingredients remain, resulting in fibers that are longer, stronger, and cleaner which produce paper that is brighter and more permanent than groundwood stocks. See groundwood.

French flaps

This is a form of softback binding, wherein the cover imitates a dust jacket, having flaps that fold in at the front and back cover. In addition to allowing for more copy, this also creates a more attractive book, with the edge showing a clearly discernible front and back cover. While the usual procedure for softback book binding includes trimming as a final step after binding, this is reversed in binding a french flap book—the front edge of the cut is trimmed before the book is bound (cutting it afterwards would cut the flaps off the cover).

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