Design speak

Artworker/mac operator

A person with skills in design programs who doesn’t necessarily make design decisions. Artworkers usually work in production, where the design has been made already and just needs to be updated or made across other templates or sizes (eg. different advertising sizes).

Body copy

‘Copy’ refers to all text/words of a website, email or document, and body copy refers to the copy that is used for the main paragraphs of information, as opposed to headlines or quotes.

CMYK colour

venn_cmyk_200CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key, or Black) is used in printing and refers to what is called the ‘subtractive colour model’. Inks are layered on top of a light background (usually paper) they subtract brightness from it. Black is printed either by using 100% black ink (100K), or by printing of all inks together (called rich black). The latter can cause smudging problems during printing, however, because of the many layers of ink needed and is usually avoided. On screen, rich black and RGB coloured black will appear darker than 100K black.

Hexadecimal (Hex) colour


Refers to the code for RGB colours used in web coding. It is made up of 6 values (eg #000000); the first two numbers refer to Red, the second two to Blue, and the last two to Green. The values range from 0-9 then A-F, with 0 representing no amount, and F representing the full amount. For example, pure screen Red would be written as #FF0000, containing the full amount of Red, but no Blue or Green. Various combinations of all of those values make up the full spectrum of possible RGB colours.

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum is placeholder text or filler copy that’s used in design mockups when real copy isn’t yet available, to show structure and typography of the design.

Native file format


Files with the format and file extension of the original program that created them, eg. .PSD files (Photoshop), .AI files (Illustrator), .INDD files (Indesign). Native files can only be opened in the program that created them.

Non-native files, such as PDF, JPG or EPS can be opened in a variety of programs, therefore a person doesn’t necessarily need to have the program they were created in to be able to use them. However, editing may be restricted (for example Photoshop files have layers and editable text, whereas saving as a JPG will flatten everything into one image who’s elements cannot be edited). It is best practice to always save the original native files as backup.

Offset printing

Offset printing is a high-quality printing method where inks are separated into different metal plates, then eventually transferred (‘offset’) onto paper using large presses. It uses cyan, magenta and yellow inks, as well as black (CMYK). Offset printing can also use spot colours, such as Pantone. Offset printing is used for high-volume print runs because, after the initial setup, is more cost effective per print than digital printing (which uses laser or inkjet printing straight from the digital files and is better for small print runs).

Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign – what are they best for?

Photoshop is pixel-based, so is made for working with digital image manipulation and is also widely used for web design because ‘what you see is what you get’ in terms of resolution display. It also has basic timeframe animation controls and is often used for simple GIF banner animations. Illustrator, on the other hand, primarily focuses on vector-based graphics and so is best for digital illustration or poster or logo creation using separate ‘artboards’ or working areas. Indesign is best for multi-page layouts and detailed text documents such as magazines, because of its ability to finely control typography and object styles and easily work with multiple pages and repeating layouts.

Print ready files

Files that have been prepared for offset printing.



The amount of pixels (in digital displays or digital image files) or dots (in printed images) that are within a measured area of an inch; commonly referred to as DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). The more pixels/dots within this area, the more detail can be shown, and the better the quality of the image. Typically, printing requires high resolution images (300dpi), but images for websites or screens are of low or web resolution (72dpi) which makes them faster to load or view. Smart phones typically have a higher resolution screen than normal monitor displays (eg. the iPhone 5 has a screen resolution of 326 ppi, which allows more detail to be shown in a smaller screen area).

It is possible to work out what size a digital image will be in print or online by using its measurements and dividing them by 300 (print resolution) or 72 (screen resolution). An image that is 2100×1800 pixels in dimension will print at 7×6 inches (2100/300=7 and 1800/300=6) but will display at around a massive 29×26 inches on a typical 72dpi screen.

RGB colour

venn_rgb_200RGB (Red, Green and Blue) is used on screens (and electronic devices) and is referred to as the ‘additive colour model’. The three colours are added together in various intensities to make the colours seen on screen. When they are all added together they make white, and when all three have a zero value, they make black. This is opposite to the CMYK colour model used in printing, where all the colours together add to make black, rather than white. RBG also has a wider colour range than what can be achieved through CMYK printing (eg. flourescent greens cannot be printed using CMYK) and some images can print duller than they look on screen.

Spot colours


Inks that have been pre-mixed to a specific colour for extremely accurate colour reproduction in offset printing. The colour is printed using one pass (rather than in layers like in normal CMYK printing). Most commonly used spot colours are those of Pantone and can be coated (ink sits on top of the paper) or uncoated (the ink absorbs into the paper), as well as other varieties. Because different printers and paper can produce slight variances in colour intensity and hue, spot colours are used to accurately reproduce specific colours (eg. a company logo colour). Spot colour systems usually have accompanying swatch booklets (pictured above).

Vector graphics


Artwork created in such programs as Illustrator, which consists of shapes rather than pixels (technically speaking, the program calculates the mathematical points of the line rather than showing it in a pixel matrix). Vector files such as EPS can be scaled to any size without losing quality, whereas image files like JPG or TIF will become pixellated if scaled larger than their original size. That is why logo files should be made and saved as EPS, to allow greater usage flexibility at various sizes, from business cards or online, to billboards.


In web design, the mocking up of a website’s layout using plain outlines or wireframes, in order to quickly assess and plan the placement of elements without having to spend the time designing. Wireframing is done at the beginning stages of web design, and usually following user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) principles and/or testing.