Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants

How to stop driving your graphic designer crazy

Graphic design - pantone colours

This post is by Lyndell Correll,  Consultant, Art Director and Head of Creative Services. Lyndell helps businesses with their design, strategic marketing direction and effective business practices.

I love working with my clients. Helping them realise their design needs. Visually representing their brand or communication strategy. But sometimes it drives me crazy. I understand that graphic design has its own language that is often foreign to my clients. And I know they sometimes look at me like I am speaking a totally foreign language.

Sure, we use words like Widow, Orphan, Hanging, Bullet, Bleed, and Ligature every day. But that does not mean we are murderous lunatics or sadistic predators. It is just the language of graphic design and production.

Much of the language of my world, the world of the designer and art director, comes from the world of the commercial printer. But increasingly the language is from IT and technology.

So while we speak English, I understand it is potentially a foreign language for my clients. But if you were going to a foreign country where they did not speak your language, wouldn’t you try and learn enough of the language to help you communicate? Especially if it makes the whole experience a lot more fun.

Whilst I could write a whole book on the meaning behind these words and why the designer is requesting certain things (it has already been done), lets start with a few of the basics. Lets call it Designer Speak 101. And lets cover the foundations of design like the typography, file formats, colours and the like.

Typography (text or type)

While programs like Adobe InDesign and even Microsoft Office make typography appear fairly easy, in fact it is a skill and an art form with its own language. There are some great typographic terms that get tossed about, but would understandably leave many non-designers confused.

Here are some that could be helpful when giving feedback to your designer on type.

Term Meaning
ellipsis A punctuated charter of  three dots or periods in a row that represents a word or phrase has been omitted.
em dash or space The width of an upper case M
en dash or space The width of an upper case N
hanging indent A style which has the first line of a paragraph aligned to the left margin and the following lines within the paragraph equally indented
kerning The horizontal space between individual characters in a line of text
leading The space between lines of type
ligature Where two or more letters are tied together or overlapping
orphan The first line of a paragraph when it appears alone at the bottom of a page.
pica A measurement equal to 12 points
reverse When light coloured text or image is shown in front of a dark background
set solid Leading that is equal to the point size of the font
tracking The average space between characters
widow A short last line of a paragraph, especially one less than half of the full measure or one consisting of only a single word. Or the last line of a paragraph when it is carried over to the top of the following page away from the rest of the paragraph.

“Can you help me get rid of the widow?” – Designer

“What?” – Client

Pixels V’s Vector (image formats)

Apart from the type, the other issue is the images. This can be photographs, illustrations and logos. In the technology-based design world they have names like Tiffs, Jpegs, EPS and the like.

When we are talking digital and print, there are two main formats used for image construction: Pixel based files and Vector based files.

Pixel based formats are made up from a number of pixels making up an image. These files are restricted to the original size that the images were created in. Increasing a pixel base image, means that the computer adds additional pixels, between the original pixels, which can result in poor printing results, with what is often referred to a “pixilation” or a “moray effect”.

 “Can you use the logo from the website for the printed brochure” – Marketing Manager

“Nope, a logo off a website is pixel based and at 72dpi not vector or 300dpi at the correct size. It will look all pixelated when printed.” – Designer

“What? I can’t see why not. It looks fine on the website” – Marketing Manager

Vector formats are made using a geometrical description which can be scaled up or down smoothly and without any quality issues. For example a vector file is perfect when supplying a logo for print, as it can be scaled up or down without losing any quality or doing damage to your brand.

“What size do you need the logo?” – Designer

“Medium will be fine” – Marketing Manager

The difference between DPI and PPI?

These days our design work is increasingly being used for both print and on-line. This means that the artwork needs to be prepared separately for each usage. Basically the difference is:

DPI means Dots Per Inch and is referred to in printing terms as it relates to how many dots of ink the printer lays down per inch.

PPI is the abbreviation for Pixels Per Inch. This is often referred to when talking about Monitor PPI, Print at home PPI and Professional Photography printing.

50 Shades of colour?

Whist 50 Shades of Grey may be getting a lot of media coverage recently, colours for designers are infinitely more interesting. We even have a number of languages to define those colours too. So instead of saying Blue or Green or Red, a designer can define the exact Blue, Green or Red and ensure that all other designers know exactly what they are talking about.

There are four common ways used to define colour for designers including:

CMYK = Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and is used in printing terms

RGB = Red, Green and Blue and is what digital displays are made up from

HEX = a 6-digit, 24 bit, hexidecimal number that represents Red, Green, and Blue. This is the most common way to represent colours on the web.

“Can you make that black blacker?” – Advertising Manager

“It is already PMS Black 6 2X” – Art Director

PMS = Pantone Matching System which allows colour matching specific colours during the production stage, regardless of the equipment used to produce the colour. This system has been widely used by graphic designers and printing houses.

But that’s not the right colour

This is a big issue because colour, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The way we perceive colour is based on the way it is being presented, including the lighting, the material along with many other factors. But here are the two main ones used:


That what you may be viewing on your monitor won’t be a true representation of the final print colour or colour seen on all other devices, as factors like Calibration, Brightness and Contrast, Gamma values, Phosphors and White points can differ between monitors and displays.


Printed colours may also look slightly different on different stocks. For example a bright stock will have a truer colour reproduction than a warm stock. Coated and uncoated stocks also play a role in how the colour will appear.

If you are concerned about any colour reproductions, talk with your designer or the print houses to find a solution that meets your requirements. If you want test printing done you will need to allow extra time for this in your planning.

How to speak designer

So, if you don’t want to drive your designer or art director crazy and don’t want them looking at you as if you have two heads or come from another planet, here are a few ways to learn how to speak, or at least understand the language they speak.

1. has a great list of Typography terms. Check it out as you will be amazed at how much easier it is to brief and provide feedback to a designer if you speak their language.

2. Understanding the difference between how to provide file formats for your end requirement. If you are unsure, chat with your designer before briefing a job in, as providing the correct file formats will save you time, versions and money.

3. If you have a particular colour in mind and don’t have access to a Pantone swatch book, try to bring a printed example to the briefing session, the designer can then match it to a Pantone colour and then the different colour break downs. Ask your designer to provide you with a brand tile when adding any new colour to your brand palette. A brand tile should consist of the logo and your primary and secondary colour palette with the different colour format breakdowns. Occasionally a Pantone swatch chip/s can be included.

4. Discuss with your design team different stock and treatments, how this will affect the colours and can help create a difference to your competitors or help with the look and feel you are after. Shiny, Matte, foils, they all have their place, but make sure you choose something that fits your requirements.

5. A well thought out and thorough briefing is one of the most important parts of the life of a job. It can make such a difference to how well your job is delivered and the costs. Whilst briefs may seem painful and a drawn out process at times, the extra 15 minutes of thoughtful planning, articulating and detail, can save time and money in the long run and who doesn’t want to have some more time up their sleeve and money left in their budget.

Take my word for it. Taking a bit of extra time to understand the language of the graphic designer will ensure a much smoother project from start to finish.


To find our how TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultants can help you further with this, click here.

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