Glossary of Design Terms

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Also called color gamut. This is the complete amount of colors which can be accurately represented in a given circumstance, such as the total amount of colors which can be printed by a printer or the total amount of colors that can be represented by a computer display. It can also refer to the the total amount of colors that can be represented in a color space. For example, the sRGB color space has a smaller gamut than the Adobe RGB color space, meaning that Adobe RGB can reproduce more colors than sRGB. Or on a broader scale, the RGB has a larger gamut than CMYK.


By actual definition, a glyph is a pictograph; a graphic character or symbol. As used in InDesign and other design and typesetting programs, a glyph refers to any individual character in a font and, more commonly, one of the special characters in a font that is not on a standard keyboard. Glyphs can include ligatures (fi, Th), fractions (1/2, 2/3), swash characters, titiling characters, ornaments and common symbols such as ©. Foreign characters are also glyphs.


Also called paper grain. A term used to describe the directional character of paper defined by the direction it travels on the rollers when being created. The grain is the primary direction of the fibers which make the paper. With the grain refers to folding paper parallel to the grain. Paper folds more easily and tears straighter with the grain than against the grain. A rectangular piece of paper (such as letter sized sheet) is referred to as either short-grain (meaning the grain travels in the direction of the shorter dimension—8.5″) or long-grain (the grain travels in the direction of the longer dimension—11″). This is important to know when binding, as the grain must be parallel to the spine of the publication so that the papers turn smoothly.

graphic arts

A term applied historically to the art of printmaking and drawing. In modern usage, it refers to the applied trade-skills of a pressman, prepress technician or typesetter. The term can also include the trades of silk-screen printing and binding.

graphic design

The term graphic design can refer to a number of artistic and professional disciplines which focus on visual communication and presentation. Various methods are used to create and combine symbols, images and words to create a visual representation of ideas and messages. A graphic designer may use typography, visual arts and page layout techniques to produce the final result. Graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.


In photography and computing, a grayscale or grayscale digital image is an image composed exclusively of shades of gray, varying from black at the weakest intensity to white at the strongest. In Photoshop and other imaging programs, grayscale also denotes a color mode where such images are created or edited. This color mode only has one channel, compared to RGB, which has three and CMYK, which has four.


A set of guidelines, able to be seen in the design process and invisible to the end-user/audience, for aligning and repeating elements on a page. A page layout may or may not stay within those guidelines, depending on how much repetition or variety the design style in the series calls for. Grids are meant to be flexible. Using a grid to lay out elements on the page may require just as much or more graphic design skill than that which was required to design the grid. Compare to template.


Paper stocks are classified as groundwood when they contain more than 10% of their pulp produced from a mechanical process that grinds wood into pulp. Although the compound in wood that makes paper is the major ingredient of the pulp, because all of the wood is used, other ingredients become part of the pulp as well. These other substances causes groundwood stocks to yellow quickly and become brittle, making them usable only for non-permanent printed items such as newspapers. In addition to this, the wood grinding process produces a pulp with very short fibers so the resulting paper has a low tear strength. Groundwood stocks are less bright and less permanent than paper produced from chemical pulp (which is pulp created from a chemical rather than mechanical process). Chemical fibers are added to many groundwood stocks to give them added strength.

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