A Designer’s Lexicon

This lexicon lists terms used in layout and design. Most writers want to see a printed edition of their works; these are the words used by print designers, graphic artists, and typographers.

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M]
[N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

- A -

agate - Type smaller than 8 points. Usually set in a sans-serif typeface. Many newspapers use 5.5 or 6-point agate for various statistics: box scores, stock tables, and some classified ads.

air - White space used within a text block. See white space.

anchor - A boundary or element that seems to hold another layout element in place. Graphics might be anchored to related paragraphs, so the image remains nearby.

armpit - A page layout problem, occuring when a headline rests on another headline or a photograph.

ascender - The portion of a letter appearing above the top of a lowercase letter x. Letters with ascenders include b, d, f, h, k, l, and t.

- B -

banner - A wide headline across three or more columns. If wider columns are used, a banner is a headline extending across the primary page, excluding any standing areas of the design.

bar - A thick line, also known as a rule, three or more points wide.

baseline - An imaginary line on which type is set. Descenders fall below this line.

bastard measure - Columns are “bastards” if not set to a standard width. Measured in picas, standard widths are 9, 10, 11, and any multiple of 6 picas.

block - A visual chunk of text, such as body copy or a caption.

body - The central part of any document. In an article, also known as copy.

body copy / text - (1) printing: The font used for the text of articles. In DTP, the most common body copy font is a variation of Times 12-point. Most newspapers and magazines use sizes from 8 to 11-point. Also known as body type. (2) editing: The body of a work.

bold / boldface - Applying a thicker stroke to a typeface without altering the measure in points.

bond - The “weight” of paper, meaning both its thickness and its ability to support a particular weight of pressure without breaking. Most office paper is 20-pound, while cardstock is 100-pound or more.

border - A rule or line to set off an element on a page.

box - (1) A ruled border around any grid element, especially text. (2) A rectangle or square of text, with or without a border.

braces / brackets - Punctuation marks [{}] [[ ]] used to signify omitted words or to add a clarification within text.

broadsheet - Traditionally, the full-size of an American newspaper, 14×23 inches. Newspapers are getting narrower, unfortunately, as they also shrink in content.

bullet - A type of dingbat [•] often used to indicate items in a list.

bumping heads - When two headlines collide in a layout, visually running together.

byline - The writer’s name when placed before or after the article. Some publications do not print bylines.

- C -

callout - A text box or visual indicator used to label aspects of another design element, such as a graph, illustration, or map.

caption - A block of text, often in agate or near-agate size, describing a design element, such as a photo or graphic.

centered - Centering a layout element uses white space on either side to position the object symmetrically. The element may be centered to the page, to margins, or to other layout elements. Objects tend to be centered in relation to other objects within a grid rectangle.

character - A single letter, number, or symbol within a typeface.

cicero - European measure in publishing; slightly larger than a pica. One inch is 5.62 ciceros.

clip art / clipart - Copyright-free or licensed artwork purchased from an outside source.

column - A single vertical arrangement of text. Also known as a leg of text.

column balancing - Aligning columns on a page by ensuring each column has the same number of lines of text.

column-inch - A measure used to describe an area one column wide and one inch deep. The column width may vary, making this an imprecise measure. Often, newspapers define a column inch as two inches wide (12 picas) and one inch deep. Sometimes seen as column inch, with no hyphen.

column rule - A verticle line separating grid containers or columns of text.

container - A container is usually a rectangular shape that marks where a story, associated visuals, headlines, and other elements coexist. A grid layout usually features several containers per page. Newspapers and magazines often have standing containers, design areas that do not change from edition to edition.

continuation line - Also known as a jump, redirects the reader to the continuation of a story.

copy - Text in an article. See body.

crop - Trimming artwork to fit a desired location in a publication’s layout. Always crop electronically or from a reprint of a photo — never crop the original art work.

cutline - A line of text indentifying a photo or illustration and its sourse. Similar to a byline, but for photographers and artists.

coutout - A photo with the background removed. Some artists prefer the term silhouette. In image editing, the removed area is a mask.

- D -

dash - A punctuation mark [] used to separate and enclose items that dramatically interrupt a thought. A dash is not a hyphen — it is longer and thinner in typography.

deck - A headline, usually half the point measure of the primary, running below the primary headline.

descender - The portion of a letter printed below the baseline. Letters with descenders include g, j, p, q, and y.

dingbat - A special character such as a star, bullet, or other symbol.

display deadline - A headline set in a decorative or script font.

dogleg - An “L-shaped” column that wraps around a photo, artwork, or other design elements. Doglegs can create visual confusion if the resulting container is irregular.

dot screen - A physical or software device that converts continuous tones to a pattern of dots for printing purposes. The dot screen is often an intentional effect, used to remind people of process color printing.

double truck - Two pages, side-by-side, treated as one layout.

downstyle - Capitalizing only the first letter and proper nouns within headlines.

DPI - Dots-per-inch. The greater the DPI value of a computer printer or scanner, the higher the qaulity of images.

drop head - See deck.

DTP - Desktop publishing. Home, small office, and in-house designers rely on DTP.

dummy - A mock-up of a layout.

Dutch wrap - A column of text that extends up or to the side near the headline. Also known as a raw wrap.

duotone - Using two basic colors to reproduce artwork or photos. The uses of specific colors are named: cyanotype (blue tints) and sepia (red tints) refer to chemical development in photography.

- E -

ear - Text or graphic elements to the side of a nameplate or flag. See flag.

em dash - A long dash [], approximately the width of the capital letter M.

en dash - A short dash [], approximately the width of the capital lettern N.

em space - A blank space equal to a capital M. An em space varies with the font used.

en space - A blank space, based on the width of the capital letter N.

- F -

face - A typeface in a given style and weight, in all point sizes. Computer programs sometimes use font to mean face. (ex: New Brunswick Bold Italic)

family - All the weights and styles of one typeface.

filler - As it sounds, an element used to fill space. Often a graphic or house ad.

flag - The name of a publication as it appears on the cover or on page one of a newspaper. Flags are also known as nameplates.

float - To position an element away from any margins or clear grid boundaries. Such elements seem to float on the page.

flush - Term describing lines of text that begin or end evenly with other lines in a column. Type might be flush-left or flush-right.

folio - A line of type including a publication’s name, date, and page numbers. A publication’s folio is similar to a typed manuscript’s header or footer.

font - A typeface at a given size, weight, and style. Fonts are specific: 10-point New Brunswick Bold Italic.

footer - The region between the bottom primary margin and the bottom of the physical page. Page numbers and other information might be placed in the footer.

full frame - Using an entire photographic image, without cropping.

- G -

graf - Designer’s slang for paragraph. Designers aren’t lazy, just efficient.

grid - The underlying pattern of a modular page layout.

gutter - (1) The distance between two columns of text. (2) A margin between two pages, used to make binding easier. The inside gutter is often greater than the outside margin, to compensate for binding.

- H -

H&J - Slang for “hyphenate and justify” during typesetting. Not a supermarket or drug store.

hairline - A rule less than one point wide. Newspapers use a 0.5-point hairline, due to the limitation of the printing process. Smaller rules risk breaking.

halftone - A photo or other image that has been converted from continuous color to dots for print using a dot screen.

hanging indent - Text set with the first line offset to the left of the remainder of each paragraph.

header - (1) A label for any regularly appearing section in a publication. (2) A space between the main margin and the top of the physical page, where numbers and other information are printed or displayed.

headline - Large type meant to draw attention to an article. Headlines run above or to the side of articles.

house ad - An advertisement for the publication or its services. Often used as filler.

hyphen - A punctuation mark [-] used to join compound words or to break typed words across two lines on a page.

hyphenation - Either manually splitting words across lines or allowing software do determine hyphen breaks. It is considered poor design to have more than two or three hyphens end consecutive lines of text.

- I -

indent - Any part of a text column set narrower or wider than other majority of text. A standard indent is placing the first word of the first line one pica or one em-space inward. Hanging indents have the first line “hang” beyond the other text, often by one pica or one em-space.

index - An alphabetized or otherwise organized list of topics found within a text, accompanied by page numbers and sometimes additional information, such as related topics.

infographic - An informational graphic, such as a chart, illustration, or map.

initial cap - A large capital letter used to indicate the start of a article or section within an article.

inset - Artwork or articles appearing within a dominant article. An item is inline if it is contained within a single column, or generally inset if text wraps around the element.

italic - Type slanting slightly and usually stylized, with many letters changed dramatically. Oblique is not italic. Usually, italicized text requires less space. Italic type was created to conserve paper and ink, not to be visually appealing.

- J -

justification - The postion of text in relation to a column. Text may be justified right, left, centered, or full (both right and left).

jump - To continue a story on another page.

jump line - The line indicating a story is “continued from…” another page or section. The jump line might also contain a small one- or two-word jump head to help identify the story.

- K -

kerning - The space between a specific pair of letters. Letter pairs with t and f tend to be closer together than other pairs.

kicker - A brief headline, just above the primary headline. Kickers are set in smaller type and often underlined.

- L -

layout - The final design of a printed page. One designs a layout, though we talk of “layout and design” for some reason.

leading - Line spacing measured from the bottom of the letter x to the top of a capital letter on the next line. Originally, strips of lead spaced lines apart.

lede - Slang for the lead paragraph of a story.

leg - Any column of text. Special shapes include doglegs and uneven legs.

legibility - The ability to visually discern elements of a page and to read type without difficulty. An effective design improves legibility.

liftout - A quote or phrase set apart from an article. Liftouts highlight material in the article – never remove the original text. See pull quote.

line shot - A photograph or illustration converted to a single color without any shades.

logo - A word or name that has been stylized, often with icons.

lowercase - The “minuscule” letters of an alphabet, a fairly recent addition. These letter forms were placed in the lower case of metal and wood type cases in print shops. The terms lowercase and uppercase refer to these boxes of type.

- M -

margin - (1) The distance from the edge of a page to the nearest block of text. (2) Any gap between elements of a layout.

masthead - Often called a staff box, a box including a reduced image of a publication’s nameplate accompanied by a list of staff members.

minuscule - The technical term for lowercase letters.

modular - A layout term describing elements in rectangular shapes fitted together. The “Swiss approach” appeared in the mid-twentieth century, a design theory focused on modules and reusable designs.

mortise - When design elements intentionally overlap.

mug [shot] - A picture of an individual’s face, also known as a headshot. Mug shot is a reference to the police term for a booking photo.

- N -

nameplate - The logo of a newspaper or magazine. See flag.

narrow [face] - Generally, a typeface with a finer stroke and reduced letter widths, based on an existing typeface as part of a family.

- O -

oblique - Text slanted to the right or left without using the italic version of the typeface. Oblique letters are not to be used in place of italicized type. See italic.

orphan - A word or short phrase at the top of a column, often the last of a sentence from a previous column. Try to avoid orphans, except in Dickens. See widow.

overline - A short headline over a photo.

- P -

page description language - A computer programming language that describes a page to an output device, such as a printer. The most famous PDL is probably Adobe’s PostScript.

pagination - Creating complete pages, from design to output, on a computer.

paste-up - The process of assembling a page. Taken from the process of pasting articles to a layout sheet.

pica - Slightly less than 1/6th of an inch. Most software uses exactly 1/6th, however.

pixel - (1) The smallest dot displayable on a screen or printable on an output device. (2) The smallest recordable dot in a camera or other digital device.

point - A measure of 1/12th of a pica. There are 72.27 points in one inch, or 72 per inch in most software design applications. Adobe’s PostScript page description language rounded the point for simplicity, forcing most software to do the same.

process color - Using four, six, or sometimes eight colors to create all other colors. Four color process is known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) printing. The hexachrome adds either a lighter blue and pink to the mix or the colors organge and green (CMYKOG). Eight-ink process color adds two shades of gray, which results in better mixing of light shades.

proof - A printed copy of a page, usually in black and white, meant to check for errors.

pull quote - A quote repeated from the main text, acting as an artistic supplement in the design. Pull quotes tend to larger and set in unique typefaces to attract attention. see liftout

pyramid [layout] - The design of a grid with ads or other visual elements stacked, like a pyramid. This is common in newspaper design.

- Q -

quotation marks - Punctuation marks [“ ”] enclosing direction quotations, titles of short works, and words used for emphasis. Quotes are not tick marks [´ ˝], which are used to indicate measurements. (note: ticks might not appear properly in all Web browsers.)

quote - See liftout, pull quote.

- R -

ragged copy - Text that is not fully justified on right and left. Text that is justified on one side can be called ragged-left or ragged-right copy.

refer (also reefer) - Usually a text box designed to “tease” a story located within the publication. Many newspapers and magazines include refers on the front to draw attention to stories. Any page can include a refer, and many stories include refers to additional information.

register - To verify color inks are printing in alignment. Some printer software can generate color registration marks to check the quality of color. Most magazines or newspapers have visible registration tests.

reverse - Type appearing in white or light print on a dark background.

Roman - Upright type with serifs. Roman also refers to type in “normal” weight, without bold or italic effects. Roman type has conquered book design, with rare exceptions.

rule - A straight line.

runaround - See wraparound.

- S -

sans serif - Any typeface without added strokes for effect. Usually, sans faces are smooth in appearance. (Arial, Avante Garde, Helvetica) Also known as sans and Swiss forms.

scale - To enlarge or reduce the size of an object. Scaling differs from cropping.

screaming - See yelling

serif - An ornamental stroke used to add flair to a typeface. Serif faces are also known as Roman and book forms. (ex: Times, Palatino, Century Schoolbook)

sidebar - A small story or facts accompanying a larger article.

sig - The “signature” of a column. A sig is a logo appearing on a regular basis. It is usually a photo and name of the columnist.

signature - (1) type: A face identified with a brand or design. (2) printing: A set of 16 book or magazine pages, which were once printed on a single sheet then cut for book binding.

silhouette - See cut-out.

skybox / skyline - A teaser placed above the flag on page one. A skyline relies on short headlines, while a skybox might mix graphics and text.

spread - A layout term for two facing pages, designed as a unit. Often, even and odd pages have slightly different (mirrored) elements in a spread.

standing [container | element] - A design element, usually a container, that remains consistent in shape and placement from edition to edition of a newspaper or magazine. websites also use standing containers to increase familiarity.

style / styling - Font styles are Roman, oblique, italic, expanded, condensed, and compressed.

subhead - A headline, smaller than the primary head, used to divide article sections.

- T -

tabloid - A publication, on newsprint, one-half the size of a traditional newspaper.

teaser - An eye-catching graphic element on page one to appeal to readers. A special form of refer.

tint - A lighter version of a color, usually created with a dot screen. Tints are described in percentages of ink coverage. For example, a 50% tint uses half. Newspapers often favor 20% black for gray, since newsprint “bleeds” badly.

tracking - The overall space between letters within words. This differs from kerning, where specific pairs of letters are positioned.

trapped [white] space - Trapped space occurs when elements accidentally create a visual hole on the page. Rarely is trapped space intentional or desired.

typeface - The characters in one family, across all sizes, weights, and styles. Also known as a face. (ex: New Brunswick, Times, Helvetica) Computer software now uses font as a synonym for typeface.

- U -

uppercase - The traditional large Roman letters, known as capitals (rarely by the technical term “majuscule”), which were the primary letters for several centuries. These letter forms were stored in the upper drawer, or case, by typesetters working in busy print shops. See lowercase.

upstyle - A “book-style” headline with all major words capitlized. Also known as title case and proper case setting.

- V -

Velox - A special resin-coated paper used to reproduce photographs.

vertical justification - The process of adding spaces between paragraphs thereby aligning columns on a page. The number of lines of text in each column may not be equal.

- W -

watermark - A faint impression on a sheet of paper. Traditionally, water was used to stain cotton-weave paper. Today, watermarks are created using a light ink.

weight - (1) type: The thickness of a typeface. The standard scale range is ultralight, light, book, medium, demibold, bold, heavy, ultra bold, and ultra heavy. (2) printing: The “bond” of a paper stock. See bond.

white space - Any significant part of a page or screen without “ink” — either words or visual elements.

widow - A word that stands alone as the last line of a paragraph. This is especially awkward if the line starts a column of text or a page. Left alone, a widow is an orphan. Unfortunately, widows are hard to control in digital media. See orphan.

wrap / wraparound - Text that wraps around another layout element.

- X -

x-height - The height of the average lowercase letter in a specifically sized font, usually equal to the height, in points, of the lowercase letter x.

- Y -

yelling - Type set in all caps. Considered difficult to read.

- Z -

Zapf, Hermann - Typographer. We include him because without Zapf, we wouldn’t have the fabulous Zapfino typeface. Seriously, digital type would not be the same without this master calligrapher.


Dodd, Robin. From Gutenberg to Open Type: An Illustrated History of Type From the Earliest Letterforms to the Latest Digital Fonts. Vancouver, WA: Hartley & Marks Publishers, 2006. [ISBN: 0881792101]

Harrower, Tim. The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook. 3rd ed ed. Madison, Wis: W.C.B., Brown & Benchmark Publishers, 1995. [ISBN: 0697201473]

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking With Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students. Vol. Design briefs. 1st ed. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. [ISBN: 1568984480]

Parker, Roger C. Looking Good in Print. 3rd ed. Chapel Hill, NC: Ventana, 1993.


Sites Linked to Here…

Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 21-Oct-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach