Glossary of Design Terms

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sans serif

Refers to typefaces that lack the small extensions (serifs) at the ends of the main strokes of the letters and which are usually without contrast in the strokes (meaning the lines which make up the characters remain a constant thickness). This glossary is set in a sans serif typeface.


Also called colorfulness or chroma. This is the perceived intensity of a color expressed as the degree to which it differs from gray. Olive green, for example, may have the same hue and brightness as a bright green, but it is less saturated.

saturation (rendering intent)

This is a rendering intent which tries to produce vivid colors in an image at the expense of color accuracy. This rendering intent is suitable for business graphics like graphs or charts, where bright saturated colors are more important than the exact relationship between colors.


A manufacturer of disc packaging headquartered in Canada. Their most common product is the molded polypropylene case used for DVD packaging and thus this case is commonly referred to as a Scanavo. These cases are available in clear, white, dark gray and black and can be custom ordered in various colors. Multi-disc cases are also available.

screen printing

A printing process in which ink is forced through a porous mesh screen stretched across a frame. The image is formed by means of a photosensitive substance that covers the screen. By placing a negative image on the screen and exposing it to strong UV light, the substance congeals. The non-exposed areas can then be cleaned off, essentially creating an image stencil for the ink to be passed through.


Also called cursive. A typeface modeled on handwriting. Script fonts can range from traditional to contemporary, from delicate to rugged. The style is further influenced by the writing instrument: steel pen, broad pen, or brush. Script faces are generally used for short settings, such as heads, invitations, and announcements. Common script fonts include Edwardian Script, Shell and Bickham Script.

secondary colors

These are the colors created when mixing two primary colors in a given color space (RGB or CMYK). In effect, the mixing of two RGB colors results in either Cyan, Magenta or Yellow, and the mixing of two CMY colors results in Red, Green or Blue (Y+M=R, C+M=B, Y+C=G). However, secondary colors commonly refer to the “inbetween” colors of Orange (Yellow plus some Magenta), Violet (Cyan plus some Magenta) and Green (Yellow plus Cyan).


A cover of the same stock (paper) as used in the rest of the book or publication. Self-covers are common in magazines, booklets and pamphlets which are saddle-stitched. Self-cover can also refer to a book casing which uses a printed cover as the casing material as opposed to a leather, cloth or vinyl coated covering. Self-covers are commonly seen in children’s books where a dust jacket would be extraneous and yet the cover needs to be interesting and colorful.


A printed piece designed to be mailed without an envelope, such as a postcard or a promotional piece that folds up with a panel that has on it the address information.


A short projection finishing off a stroke of a letter. Serifs originated with the Roman masons who terminated each stroke in a slab of stone with a serif to enhance the appearance of the letters. Serifs generally help the eye when reading text as they flow one character to the next. See sans serif.

Shotgun Marketing

Marketing without any concentration on the actual marketing of any one individual product. Pushing everything all at once scatters the audience attention and weakens the impact of the individual items.


The phenomenon in which printed matter on one side of a sheet shows through on the other side. This may be caused by the use of incompatible inks and papers, but more often it is because the paper is too thin.

slab serif

Refers to a font that has serifs that are straight and the same or similar thickness to the upright and horizontal lines of the characters. An example of a slab serif font is Soho Pro.

small caps

A complete alphabet of caps that are the same size as the body, or x-height, of lowercase letters. Most typesetting and layout programs can automatically generate small caps by reducing the size of the cap letters. This is not ideal, however, as the thickness of the letters will no longer be comparable to the rest of the text set in the same point size. Many typefaces are designed with a small caps version of the font.


Also paperback or softcover. Describes and refers to a book by the nature of its binding. The covers of such books are usually made of paper or paperboard and are usually held together with glue rather than stitches or stampes. The “soft” differentiates it from a “hardbound” book, which are bound in casing board. Most paperbacks are either mass market paperbacks or trade paperbacks.

specification sheet

Also specs or spec sheet. A detailed description of the components of a job, product or activity, detailing final requirements, papers, inks, foils, preferred methods by which these are achieved and so on. These are provided to the printer or manufacturer with the files necessary to produce a job.

split complementary

Also called splits. These refer to the colors immediately adjacent to the complement of the key color. When you go into splits, you actually should apply them only to lesser image sizes and even then sparingly.

spot color channels

This is kind of channel (see alpha channels) in a Photoshop file that specifies additional plates for printing with spot color inks (such as a PMS color).


Generally used to describe any two facing pages of a document or publication. More accurately, a spread refers to two such pages designed as a single unit, such as when artwork or a line of text crosses the gutter between the two pages, forming a single design from the two pages.

square sans

Refers to typefaces which are sans serif and “squared off” to a greater or lesser degree. Characters which identify a square sans font are ones that in other fonts would usually be either circular or oval, such as “d”, “c” and “o”. A a popular square sans font is Bank Gothic, show here: This type is set in a square sans font. A less obvious square sans font is Klavika.

sRGB 1996

This is a standard RGB color space created by HP and Microsoft in 1996 for use on monitors, printers and the internet. This color space is designed to match typical home and office viewing conditions and is the most common color space for all content intended for monitor display (internet, SFX, video, etc.). This color space is sometimes avoided by high-end print publishing professionals because its color gamut is not big enough, especially in the blue-green colors, to include all the colors that can be reproduced in CMYK printing.


The main vertical or oblique stroke of a letter.


Also called substrate. Any material used to receive a printed or stamped image, such as paper, board, vinyl or leather. Printers use the term stock to refer to the paper being used for a particular print job, as in “use the uncoated stock for the interior.”


A careful examination of something as a whole and in detail. The word survey as used in public relations and marketing terminology means to carefully examine public opinion with regard to an idea, a product, an aspect of life, or any other subject. By examining in detail (person to person surveying) one can arrive at a whole view of public opinion on a subject by tabulating highest percentage of popular response.


Abbreviation for Specifications for Web Offset Publications. A system of standards developed for the printing industry to aid consistency in the use of color separation films and color proofing.

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