Brand design terminology you need to know: A comprehensive guide

Brand design terminology you need to know: A comprehensive guide

Whether you’re getting a logo designed, or working on a complete brand overhaul, working with a graphic designer is a lot easier when you understand the terminology!

Although I do my best not to use industry jargon, I still sometimes forget myself! To help with this, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of words that are commonly used in the brand design world, organized by category.

I hope it helps you the next time you work with a designer!



A brand encompasses the complete experience customers have while interacting with a business. This includes visual aspects (logo, colors, fonts, images) and non-visual aspects (mission, tone, positioning, customer service, etc.)

Read more about branding and why it’s important.

Brand Identity

Brand identity refers to the brand that a business is attempting to create for itself. In other words, it’s the intention behind the brand, as well as how the business presents itself and interacts with others.

Brand Image

Brand image on the other hand, refers to how a brand is perceived. It’s the result of the efforts a business puts into their brand. Of course, the outcome (how people receive & perceive the brand) is not actually within the business’ control.

Brand Assets

Brand assets are the individual elements that form a visual brand. These include logo files, fonts, colors, icons, patterns, etc.

Brand Attributes

Brand attributes refer to the brand’s “personality”. These are the qualities and characteristics of the brand that make it personable and memorable.


A logo is a graphic representation or symbol that represents a business, product, group or organization. It may include a logotype or logomark or both.


A logotype (sometimes referred to as a wordmark) is when text is used as a logo. Generally the business name will be designed using a specific font or the letters might be displayed in a creative way.


A logomark (sometimes referred to as a brandmark) refers to the graphic or symbol that is used to represent the business and generally does not include the text/business name.


A moodboard is a collage of images designed to evoke the intended mood or style of your brand. It’s used to inspire the direction of the brand design.

Style Guide

A style guide refers to a summary of your brand identity that is presented in a document for easy reference.

I’ve broken down the various branding documents that you might come across in this post.



The terms typography and font are often used interchangeably (which in my opinion is no big deal!) Traditionally, typeface referred to the font family and its aesthetic qualities (such as Arial) and font referred to the typeface at a specific size and weight (such as Arial, 12pt, bold) or the availability of the various sizes and weights.

Serif Font

Serif is a classic style of font where the lines (strokes) of each letter have a little tick extending off the top and bottom. Times New Roman is one of the best known serif fonts.

Sans Serif Font

Sans serif is a modern style of font where the lines (strokes) of each letter are straight (without the serif tick). Arial is the one of the best known sans serif fonts.

Display Font

A display font refers to a font that will be used in a headline or in a larger format (as opposed to paragraphs of text.) This allows for a font that is more interesting, with more personality, because readability is not a huge issue.


Kerning refers to adjusting the spacing between characters in a word. It is sometimes adjusted for readability and balance or to achieve a certain look within a word.


Tracking refers to adjusting the spacing within a group of letters or block of text. It is also used to improve readability and balance, or to create a more dense or expanded look within blocks of text.


Leading refers to the vertical space between lines of text for improved readability or effect.


White space

White space refers to the portion of a document or design that does not contain text or images. It’s used to create balance and visual “breathing room” in a design, as well as to help direct the reader’s eye through the content. White space is also sometimes referred to as negative space.


Margins refer to the space or edge around a document or design.


Alignment refers to how elements of a page or design line up relative to each other. Common alignment terms are left, right, centered, justified, top, bottom.

Above the fold

This terms is commonly used in web design (although it originated in the printing industry) and it refers to content that is able to be seen on the screen before scrolling. In other words, it’s any content that is not cut off by the bottom of the screen before you scroll down.


Hierarchy refers to the alignment and arrangement of elements in a design that visually demonstrates importance.

Mock up

A mock-up (also called a proof) is a representation of how a design will look when finished in order to demonstrate the design in a realistic way.

Trim Marks

Trim marks show anywhere a printed piece will need to be cut.

Bleed Marks

Bleed marks are needed when a design goes right to the edge of a printed piece. In order to have a clean edge, the design will extend past the dimensions of the piece and be trimmed after printing.


Orphans and widows are words or a single line of text that end up alone at the top or bottom of a page or column of text. They look awkward to the eye, so text is often adjusted to avoid them when possible.



Copy (short for copywriting) refers to any written text that will be needed for a design project.

Dummy text

Dummy text is “placeholder” text that represents text that will eventually be placed in a document. This allows designers to design the layout of a document without having all the final text.

Lorem Ipsum

The industry standard for dummy text is “Lorem Ipsum” text, which is simply scrambled Latin words.



A palette (or color palette) is a group of colors used together for a brand. A palette helps to keep your brand look consistent across all of your marketing.


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) and is generally the color mode you want to choose if you’re going to be printing your designs.


RGB stands for Red, Green & Blue and is the color mode used by screens, such as computer and TV screens. Use RGB if your designs are going to be online (websites, social media graphics, etc.)


Pantone is an industry standard color matching system that helps keep colors accurate through various printing and manufacturing processes. Generally they are used by large, well known brands who need to keep colors very specific and consistent.

HEX Code

HEX (hexadecimal) Code is a numbering system used to represent a colors. HEX codes are typically used to define colors in web design, but can also be used in any design software, making it an easy system to use for brand colors.


A color gradient is a subtle progression from one color to the next, or a fading of one color from full intensity to transparent.


Opacity refers to the degree of transparency of a color or design element.


Vector Image

A vector image is a digital image made up of paths (lines) rather than pixels. This allows for the image to scale without losing quality. For example, logos are designed as vector images.

EPS, AI (Adobe Illustrator file), and SVG are examples of vector image files. Generally you need design software to open vector images, and they need to be exported as bitmaps in order to be used on websites or social media.

Bitmap Image

A bitmap image (also called raster image) is an image that is made up of pixels (dots). This type of image is commonly used for digital photographs because it allows for a large range and depth of colors. The quality of the image depends on its resolution.

JPEG, GIF and PNG are examples of bitmap images. GIF and PNG allow for transparent backgrounds, JPG does not. However, JPG files can be optimized for the web to allow a high quality image at relatively low file size.


Resolution is a term used to describe the quality of an image or a printed piece. It’s measured in PPI (pixels per inch) for screens and DPI (dots per inch) for printers, which refers to the number of dots/pixels in one inch of the image.

Stock Photo

Stock photos are collections of photos that are available to be downloaded or purchased by businesses to be used on websites, social media or other marketing pieces. Stock photos are an alternative to taking your own photos and are available at a range of price points, from free to high-end.


Patterns are digital images often incorporated as a background in a design. Patterns are used to create interest, add texture or achieve a certain look. Patterns can be part of a brand identity.


Icons are digital images used to represent a subject matter, object or an action. For example, the image of an envelope is an icon commonly used to represent contact details or e-mail. Icons can be part of a brand identity.

There you go! A complete list of terms that you might hear from your designer when working on your brand! I hope you find it helpful!