If you haven’t been following along, we’ve started a series of blog posts called “Design for Non-Designers.” Today we’re talking about design terms we always get wrong. 

It turns out that many of our readers are part of small businesses or nonprofits with fewer resources than more developed organizations. Whether it comes down to their budget, tools, or team, a lot of mission-based organizations aren’t able to hire an in-house designer. Whether design tasks get distributed across your team or rest on one person—maybe that’s you—without understanding some basics, the job can feel overwhelming. 

design terms we always get wrong

At Anna Montgomery & Co, we love to empower mission-driven people as they learn to build trust and communicate honestly with their own audience. Sometimes we do that through partnering with people in their branding, web development, or marketing and communications efforts. But other times we empower people by giving them tools and skills to take these challenges on for themselves. 

So far in our design series, we’ve covered Intro to Design Terms, Visual Hierarchy, and Understanding Color. If you’re looking for some guidance or just a refresher, head on over to our blog to check out these resources! 

With that said, what are the design terms we always get wrong? 

The Design Terms We Always Get Wrong

Font & Typeface

They both have to do with letters, right? The real difference goes back to the days of the printing press. We won’t give you a history lesson here, but if you’re interested, we’d recommend this fascinating read for a crash course on the printing press and how it affects modern typography. 

But, since most of us are doing our design work on a computer these days, the ways we talk about font and typeface have changed. 

What’s the difference between them? A typeface is a group of letters and characters that all have certain design features—think Arial, Times New Roman, or Georgia. Within each of these typefaces, you can choose to differentiate the type even more through characteristics like bold or italics, for example. So, for example, Times New Roman would be a typeface while Times New Roman Bold would be a font. 

design terms we always get wrong

Tracking & Kerning

Both of these have to do with the space between letters. Tracking applies space (or takes it away) across the board. If you add space between the first two letters in a word, the same will be true for the last two letters. 

On the other hand, kerning is the space between each individual letter. You probably wouldn’t change the kerning on a whole sentence or paragraph of text. It’s more useful for small bits of important text—like a logo or a word that you need to stand out. 

Want a bonus typography term? Leading is similar to both tracking and kerning, but refers to the space between lines of text. Another one of those design terms we always get wrong.

Logomark vs Logotype

In the world of logos, there tend to be a lot of terms that get thrown around—logomark, logotype, wordmark, lettermark, brandmark, logo symbol. And, believe it or not, the list goes on. Instead of defining all of them, what are the main types of logos and what do you really need to understand? 

Two of the main types of logos are logomarks and logotypes. If you get the two mixed up, break down each of the words. A logomark is centered around a mark of sorts—an icon or picture. Think about the Nike Swoosh or the Target emblem. On the other hand, a logotype is based on text—usually your brand’s name or initials. Think about the CNN or Google logos. 
It can be tricky when logos combine the two or as organizations start to incorporate more logos for different purposes. However, once you can distinguish the main differences in types of logos, all the subtle differences and terminology gets easier to understand. Want to learn more about logomarks and logotypes in-depth? Check out this article that explains the strengths and weaknesses of each and walks through the best options for your brand.

design terms we always get wrong

Vector & Raster

These are examples of design terms that might seem more overwhelming or high-tech than they really are. Both vector and raster are types of files. 

Think back to that photo that you took on your digital camera in 2009. Maybe a picture of your daughter’s birthday party or a school reunion. As you zoom in, the details get fuzzy—maybe even “pixelated.” This is a raster file. Raster images are built out of pixels and are usually used for photos. 

On the other hand, vector files are more mathematical. Picture a blue circle. How big is it? The size of a lightbulb? Rhinoceros? A half-dollar? Or maybe its size didn’t even cross your mind? Since shapes are based on lines and curves, they don’t have to live in a certain size. Vector files are made out of the relationships between different shapes. They’re great for logos, type, or reproducible graphics. They keep their quality no matter how many times they are opened or resized. 

design terms we always get wrong

Trim, Crop & Bleed

Trim, crop, and bleed all have to do with getting rid of “extra” in your image or graphic, so it’s no wonder they can be some of those design terms we always get wrong. 

At this point, because photo editing has become so easy and common because of social media platforms or your phone, most people are pretty familiar with the concept of cropping. Remember the ex-boyfriend that got cropped out of all the family photos after the breakup? There’s cropping for you. Hint: Don’t mix up “cropping” with “crop marks” that are part of the printing process—more on that in a minute. 

Trimming is similar. But, instead of cutting an image short, trimming refers to cutting out extra space around an image, whether that space is transparent or a background. 

While cropping and trimming are more of design terms, bleed is all about printing a finished design. Have you ever tried printing a full size photo on your home printer and it comes out a little crooked or with white space along the edges? It can be a headache to get everything lined up just right. The solution? Bleed. Bleed is the part of your image past what will be trimmed. And, the little tick marks in the corners of a print-ready file are the “crop marks” that will guide the final trim of the finished product. 

A Note About the Design Terms We Always Get Wrong

We hope this overview of design terms we always get wrong was a helpful guide to some lingo that might be unfamiliar to people outside the design world. If you’re new, it can be easy to get bogged down with terminology. Just remember—in the end, it’s not all about getting all the terms right. It’s about experimenting, learning, and finding something that works for your brand. So get out there, and start designing! 

Having trouble finding something that works? We’re always here for any design needs you may have. We’d love to talk about how a partnership with Anna Montgomery & Co could give you the extra support your organization needs to focus on living out your mission, so please connect with us

Happy designing—we can’t wait to see what you create!