Design terms you should know

Design terms you should know


Is the way how different elements are arranged horizontally and vertically in a layout. Alignment can also be left, right, justified or centered.

Analogous colors

Are the colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. They match really well and create a proper color harmony.

Complementary colors

A term that describes a color scheme. Those are the colors that sit opposite from each other on the color wheel. For example: yellow and purple

Flat design

Involves creating a design with two-dimensional images, sharp edges, lots of open space and bright color schemes

Simple illustrations with a big impact because they seem to be more creative and less chaotic.

Hex codes

A hex code represents a color with a string of six digits. For example #ff0000, that would be the brightest red.


Refers to the purity or intensity of any hue. An increased saturation will look more intense.


Describes the relative size between objects and shapes in any design. Adjusting an object’s scale can influence how the users view your deign. For example, if a headline has the same size as the text underneath it, it probably gets overseen.


Is the color mode used when designing for print. It refers to the four inks/colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black)


Is the color mode used when designing for digital applications. Here you’re working with the colors: red, green and blue. These mixed together in different amounts can create a borad and vibrant range of colors.


A gradient is a gradual blend of different colors or shades from the same hue.



Is the number of units that occupy a linear inch in an image. You measure it in pixels per inch (PPI) on a screen. For printing you’d use dots per inch (DPI) for measuring.


Is a underlying system of columns and guides. Horizontal and vertical. Used to provide structure in a design.

Margin & padding

Margin is the space around an element’s border while padding is the space between an element’s border and the element’s content. 

Subtractive color mixing

The subtractive color mixing is based on the three basic colors cyan, yellow and magenta.

Mixing these colors results in darker color shades because the substances absorb more wavelengths. Therefore light energy gets substracted. 

If those colors are mixed together in full intensity and in equal proportions, black is obtained.

Additive color mixing

Additive color mixing is based on the three primary colors red, green and blue.

Mixing these colors produces brighter hues because light energy is added.

If all three colors come together in full intensity and and equal proportions, they complement each other to white.

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