AgNerd Design 101: Design Vocab, Volume 1


My first AgNerd Design 101 post on filters and photo effects was fueled entirely by excitement. Because a lot of folks have different levels of graphics knowledge and varying degrees of skill, I’m going to step backward now and take a more calculated look at what I should be posting. Today’s post is a “back to basics” post. I want to cover some of the jargon that gets tossed around in art and design, so that the reference material is here and a foundation is set for word use in later posts. I’m kind of writing this “stream-of-consciousness” style as I randomly think of terms to define, so please bear with me.

Who’s ready to get your inner-designer juices flowing?

There are two types of digital images. Vector and Raster. Vector graphics are made up of geometric equations-turned-image. They resize easily and are very, very, very common in higher-end design. Chances are, any logo that you’ve seen in recent years was “built” out of vector graphics. I thoroughly enjoy working in vector now after learning how to do it, but most people will never deal with vector images. I want to talk more about raster images.

Raster images are made up of lots of tiny dots. These dots are called pixels, which is short for “picture elements.” A pixel is generally the basic unit of measurement in digital graphics, especially raster. Graphic images are by default (usually) 72 pixels per inch. The pixels in a raster image shrink and grow based on how you resize the image. This means that raster graphics CAN be shrunk without losing too much quality but do not expand very well.

Here is an example of what pixels do to an image if not handled properly.

My mom was giving a tour of the house at a family party. I got into the master bathtub to show how spacious it is. My herd of little Hellions ran in and climbed into the tub with me, as if on command. This is the "normal" size of the image. It isn't very high quality so there's some pixelation in detailed areas like my face.

This is what my face (and my niece's) look like blown up. As you can see, it's blocky, smudgy, and altogether nasty looking. That's because the pixels stretched with the image.

That’s a big theory when working in graphics. I might dive into it in-depth more later, but I do have other words I want to skim over very quickly in this post.

Text is a big part of any design project. The art/science of text from a graphic standpoint is called typography. This includes all text. Logo text, the text in this blog post, any text. Newspapers, magazines, books…all of them involve typography. It’s just the science of text. I plan on having more information about this “lost art” as many designers call it later on. (I like to geek out about it, since I JUST finished a typography class for school.)

Gradient is another term that tends to get used a lot in graphic stuff. It’s a fancy way to say that something is fading from one thing into another. If you look at the banner at the top of my blog, the sides fade out into white. This is a gradient. The image fades into the white background and becomes more white as you get closer to the edges. Again, this may pop up in later editions of AgNerd Design 101.

Another term that seems basic but actually has more depth is color theory. This is just the basic understanding of the way colors work. I know for sure that I want to write a post on this. It will include concepts like tint, shade, and hue. It will reference the color wheel and talk about complementary, tertiary, triadic, and analogous colors. We’ll talk about hexadecimal codes, CMYK, and process colors. We’ll discuss the fact that colors can be copyrighted. Yes, color is a complex beast. Heck, I may have to break it into two posts!

Go any more questions? Got any more words in mind that you want explained, dissected, or defined? ASK ME. That’s what I’m here for: to help you, the agriculture advocates of the world, better understand graphic design so that you can create awesome content for your blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. That’s the whole point of AgNerd Design 101!

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