Every industry has its jargon. The words specific to their profession that someone outside the industry would scratch their heads at and graphic design is no different. I do my best to avoid using industry-specific terms because I know my clients don’t know what they mean. However, much as I try there are some terms that I can’t escape and find myself explaining on a regular basis. Here are five common design terms and what they mean!


A proof is a draft of your design used to check for correctness & make changes to if needed. The term is short for proof of correctness. In commercial printing, there are two types of proof. A soft or digital proof, and hard or printed proof. A proof is used to make sure everything is correct. It is up to you as the client to double-check the designer has done everything you wanted & spelled everything correctly.


A bleed is an extra margin on an image that gets trimmed off during the printing process to make sure the background goes all the way to the edge of the design. When a design stretches to the very end of the page, it’s called a bleed because the design “bleeds” off the page. It doesn’t need to be a very large margin as most bleeds are around 1/8 inches (approximately 0.3175 cm). This extra margin is cut off during printing to make sure the design is smooth with no white paper showing.


A Duotone is an image that lays one contrasting color over another to bring out the highlights of an image for effect. Until recently this has been a very popular trend and uses a color scheme of only two contrasting colors. Duotones are not a modern trend; they have been popular on and off for a long time. One of the previous times they were popular was in the 1960s when printing 4 colors was an expensive process that included 4 printing plates. As a way to save money, many artists would have their work printing in just 2 contrasting colors such as magenta and yellow.


A Hex-Code has nothing to do with Halloween or black magic. Hex is actually short for hexadecimal. Hexa means six and decimal means number which makes hexadecimal meaning 6 numbers. A hexadecimal code is made up of letters and numbers representing a specific color. For example, the hexadecimal code for white is “#FFFFFF” and the hexadecimal code for red is “#FF0000”.  These codes are usually used in web design, but it is also a great tool for color matching.


Alignment isn’t just for mindsets! It’s how all the parts of a design line up with each other and the page to create the design and how it feels! Its purpose is to create balance and order in the design. There a lot of different ways to create alignment in design, but one of the popular ways is edge alignment where the edges of the elements are lined up with the margin.

There you have it! Five common design terms, and their definitions! I hope this helps you with your future design work!

If you’re ready to see how graphic design can massively up level your impact and income, email me & I’ll hook you up with a FREE 1:1 Branding & Design Strategy Session where we’ll chat about your business, your goals, and give you tips on how design can get you where you want to be.