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A Dictionary of Graphic Design Terms

Accessibility As specified in Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act, the process of designing and developing Web sites and other technology that can be navigated and understood by all people, including those with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive impairments. This type of design also can benefit people with older/slower software and hardware.
Acrobat A set of programs from Adobe:
Acrobat Exchange is used for converting documents into PDF (portable document format) files
Acrobat Reader is used for viewing and printing PDF formatted files.
ADA The Americans with Disabilities Act; wide-ranging legislation intended to make society more accessible to people with disabilities. As web-based information continues to diversify, it is increasingly important that web pages be designed with consideration for different types of access. Recommendations for universally accessible design can be found at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) web site at
Banner A graphic file running across the top width of a web page.
Case-Sensitive A case-sensitive restriction means lower-case letters are not equivalent to the same letters in upper-case. Example: “cat” is not recognized as being the same word as “Cat” or “CAT”.
Decompress Opposite of compressing a file; the process of restoring the file to its original size and format.
Digitize Sometimes referred to as digital imaging; the act of translating an image, a sound, or a video clip into digital format for use on a computer.  All data a computer processes must be digitally encoded as a series of zeroes and ones.
Download The process of transferring one or more files from a remote computer to your local computer. The opposite action is upload.
DPI: Dots per inch; a measure of a printer’s resolution. The higher the number, the better the print quality. A minimum of 300 dpi usually is required for professional-looking results.
Extension A suffix preceded by a period at the end of a filename; used to describe the file type.
Font A complete assortment of letters, numbers, and symbols of a specific size and design. There are hundreds of different fonts ranging from businesslike type styles to fonts composed only of special characters such as math symbols or miniature graphics.
Header The portion of an e-mail message or a network newsgroup posting that precedes the body of the message; it contains information like who the message is from, its subject, and the date. A header also is the portion of a packet that proceeds the actual data and contains additional information the receiver will need.
Icon a small picture or symbol that represents some object or function.
Image map A graphic overlay that contains more than one area (or hot spot) which is clickable and links to another web page or anchor. Image maps provide an alternative to text links for directing the user to additional information.
Justified: A word processing format in which text is formatted flush with both the left and right margins. Other options include left justified (text is lined up against the left margin) and right justified (text is lined up against the right margin).

The amount of space between characters in a word.

Laser Printer A type of printer that produces exceptionally high quality copies. It works on the same principle as a photocopier, placing a black powder onto paper by using static charge on a rolling drum.
Leading The vertical space between lines of text on a page; in desktop publishing, you can adjust the leading to make text easier to read.
Multimedia The delivery of information in a combination of different formats including text, graphics, animation, audio, and video.
OCR Optical character recognition; the act of using a visual scanning device to read text from hard copy and translate it into a format a computer can access (e.g., an ASCII file). OCR systems include an optical scanner for reading text and sophisticated software for analyzing images.
Palette A display box containing sets of colors, patterns, styles, or tools within a desktop publishing or graphics design program. Also refers to the range of colors a computer or an application is able to display. Most computers can display as many as 16 million colors, but a given program may use only 256 of them. 
Pixel Stands for one picture element (one dot on a computer monitor); commonly used as a unit of measurement.
Plug-in A program used for viewing multimedia files that your web browser cannot handle internally; files using a plug-in do not need to be moved to your computer before being shown or played. Contrast to a helper application which requires the file to first be moved to your computer. Example of plug-in: RealAudio (for streamed files over the Internet).
PostScript A page description language primarily used for printing documents on laser printers; it is the standard for desktop publishing because it takes advantage of high resolution output devices.
PostScript Fonts: Called outline or scalable fonts; with a single typeface definition, a PostScript printer can produce many other fonts. Contrast to non-PostScript printers that represent fonts with bitmaps and require a complete set for each font size.
Public Domain Non-copyrighted material which may be used without violating copyright restrictions.
Raster Also referred to as bitmap images.  Raster images are made up from a sequence of pixels (picture elements) or dots. There are many different raster image formats such as; GIF, JPEG, PCX, and TIFF.
RGB Red, green, and blue; the primary colors that are mixed to display the color of pixels on a computer monitor. Every color of emitted light can be created by combining these three colors in varying levels.
Table A method for formatting information on a web page. Use of tables and the cells within provide a way to create columns of text. Use of tables vs. frames is recommended for helping to make your web site ADA-compliant.
TrueType A technology for outline fonts that is built into all Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Outline fonts are scalable enabling a display device to generate a character at any size based on a geometrical description.
Vector Computer-aided design (CAD) programs and drawing applications such as Adobe Illustrator produce vector graphics. Vector graphics scale up or down easily without looking blocky or pixilated because they are described by curves and algorithms (as opposed to individual pixels which are bitmap or raster images.)

The act of enlarging a portion of an onscreen image for fine detail work; most graphics programs have this capability.




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Last updated: 09/24/13