Branding 101: The Language of Design Explained

Lindsey Simpson
Mar 26 · 5 min read

Being unfamiliar with the world of design, many find themselves lost when having conversations with designers or trying to interpret their brand guidelines. So, our team thought it would be useful to break down the definition of design and some of the commonly used lingo.

In the most basic sense, Oxford Dictionary defines design as…


noun1. a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is made.

As a creative agency we think design is much, much more . For starters I asked our team to give their definition of design in relation to branding:

“Design is where the function and the form meet. It’s also the process to define and visually express what a brand or a person stands for.” “Design exudes a company’s values and core beliefs. Design provides a clear message and is able to communicate in different mediums effectively.”

Now that we know that design is used to visually express a brand and its messaging, let’s dig a little deeper into the lingo.

Colors systems.

CMYK, RGB, PMS, HEX… this really does sound like a foreign language. Let’s review what each system is used for and what they mean.


Red, blue, green.

When to use it? All things digital.

As one may expect, this is a combination of the colors red, blue, and green. Different levels of each color produce essentially any color the eye can see. Since it uses light to produce color, this is the most vibrant of the color systems.


Cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

When to use it? Printing.

Unlike RGB, this system is a four-color subtractive process. Always be sure to look at proofs of CMYK before ordering prints since the colors are mixed during printing and sometimes cause minor inconsistencies.


Pantone matching system.

When to use it? Printing.

But wait, I thought we said CMYK is used for printing? Well, the Pantone Matching System was designed to mitigate the inconsistencies mentioned above. But how? PMS pre-mixes the colors with a specific formula, hence standardizing the process. Having specific formulas creates consistent color across printers, and is why this system is often seen in color swatch books.



When to use it? All things digital.

Essentially, this is the web version of the PMS system. Each 6 digit chain of numbers is defined by its mix of red, green, and blue starting with the “#” sign to signify the color blend. With this system, it is safe to assume that each code will produce the same color across internet browsers and displays.


With over 300,000 + fonts in the world, it can be easy to go astray. However, every font can be simply divided into two broad letterforms — Serif & Sans Serif.

Sans Serif

The hip, modern, and popular letterform.

As you can see fonts of these style lack strokes, or tails, at the end of the letters. In today’s world, Sans Serifs is very common because many believe it is easier to read and stands out more.


The serious and formal letterform.

Some argue that Serif is the way to go because the strokes can create increased space and are easier to read since many grew up reading the classic Times New Roman font in books.

Font Weight

Emphasizing your message.

Within each font, there are different weights such as light, extra -light, regular, semi-bold, bold, extra-bold, etc.

Some more lingo.

Negative Space

Blank space, white space, and empty space.

This refers to the space around a logo or illustration that needs to be left empty, otherwise, the image may appear cluttered and take away from the original design.

Such products as dietary supplements or steroids are also sold without a prescription, which might be dangerous because even non-prescription products may cause considerable harm to your health.

Lorum Ipsum

The placeholder text.

As a newbie this text might throw some off, but don’t pull out your google translate just yet. This is a dummy text used a placeholder similar to “Add text here.”


Different from the logo.

While often confused as the logo, the logomark is the symbol associated with the the logo. The full logo consists of the logomark + logotype.


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