Never be confused again when your creative team uses one of these terms!

We creatives have our own lingo. To the uninitiated, it sounds like a strange language. And it kind of is. It’s important because certain things have very defined meanings for designers and other creatives, even if two terms sound similar. This will help you navigate important conversations with your designer.

Important definitions to know what your designer means

Branding

In brief, your brand is your reputation. It is what people think about your business. It can cover what you offer, how you look, how people feel when they walk into your space. It’s even how you answer the phone. Notice we haven’t even talked about your logo yet. Your logo is part of your brand, but it isn’t your brand. It’s just a visual representation of your brand.

Brand Strategy

A brand strategy is a set of documents that lays out what a brand stands for, who the brand is, and why they do what they do. In a lot of cases, it covers what you want your reputation to be. How do you plan to convince people to perceive you that way. A successful brand strategy is clear and compelling. Be sure you don’t confuse it with a style guide or brand guidelines.

Style Guide vs. Brand Guidelines

Brand guidelines build on the ideas set forth in the brand strategy. They show, in-depth, how the company’s brand can be expressed and communicated. It tends to be a large document or a website with sections like “brand promise,” “values,” “vision,” and “voice.” It also includes examples of how the logo, colors, and fonts should be used in different situations. It might also explore acceptable photography styles.

On the other hand, style guides are usually much more pared down. They could be as short as one or two pages, outlining how to use logos, fonts, and colors, without various usage examples.

Comps or Mocks

Oftentimes we use the term “comp” or “mock” interchangeably to describe a static image file that illustrates how a web design will look. The word comp is short for “composite,” and is likely very close to the final design. It may not have the highest level of detail. It’s not an exact replica, but it is close. Comps are meant for project approval. Developers will take the comp(s) and create a final website with functioning code. A composite is also close to a near-final ad, without the finalized edits to the copy or imagery.

I avoid confusion by calling my initial set of designs comps or drafts. Subsequent files are called revisions. I denote this in the file name.

Revisions

Any time a project passes from client to designer and back is a revision. Even if it is changing the spelling of one word. Too many rounds of revisions is cumbersome and tiresome for both parties, and both can get fatigued and annoyed with each other. A good rule of thumb is to gather a list of substantial changes before sending them to your designer. Revision fatigue is real. Sixteen rounds of revisions is tiresome for everybody.

Color scheme

Your brand, website, or ad campaign should have a selection of colors that go together in the design. Ideally they will look good together. A good rule of thumb is to have one signature color, and 2 or 3 supporting colors. The more colors you have, the less cohesive your design is.

Copy

Anytime you have wording, you have copy. Copy refers to all the text content of a web page or ad or brochure, from headlines, to captions, to body text. Designers often ask for copy before beginning layout, because it’s hard to know how much text to plan for if you don’t know how long it will be.

Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum is dummy text that was invented hundreds of years ago for typeface samples. It uses pseudo Latin, and while parts of it are direct quotes from Cicero, it’s kind of jumbled up and turns into nonsense after a few paragraphs. If your Latin teacher was in a bad mood they made you try to translate it.

The reason designers use Lorem Ipsum is because the word lengths are similar enough to actual English words that it gives a reasonable suggestion of how a block of text will appear in a particular typeface.

So, if your designer gives you a mockup where the text looks like it’s Latin, don’t freak out. It’s just a placeholder, and you need to supply copy or tell the copywriter to get moving.

Bonus: there are a bunch of fun Lorem Ipsum generators on the Internet. My favorite is the coffee ipsum.

Mockup

A mockup is an early prototype of a website, ad, or brochure, and may not have all the complete information filled in. It might have dummy text or low-resolution, watermarked photos.

Typeface

Most people use the term font and typeface interchangeably. Yes, there’s a technical difference, but that really only means something to hardcore typography nerds and professional type designers. People like me nerd out over all the various styles and how to combine them.

Generally, good typography is invisible. That means it doesn’t call too much attention to itself, but it calls attention to the brand and the call to action for the audience. Most of the time, you want to limit the number of typefaces on a page. Too many different voices leads to a confused mess.

White Space

White space is the blank space or negative space on the page or screen that gives “breathing room” to the rest of the information present. It’s less crammed together. Believe it or not, your brain actually looks at the white space, or negative space, between letters, not the filled-in parts. A lot of the skill of design is in finding the appropriate balance between positive and negative space in order to make it legible and appealing to the right audience.

Vector Art

Vector art is a particular type of image file that built on mathematical points on a grid joined by lines and curves. Raster files are grids of dots or pixels. The bottom line is that vector files can infinitely adjust in size without losing resolution, which makes them perfect for logos.

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