Having a common language between creatives and clients will prevent misunderstandings in the long run.

Back when we were redesigning the site, some of us were in a shared office space. Occasionally, we asked a couple of the designers to work on site a couple days during the week to do follow up on projects.

Naturally, some of the graphic designers started speaking with other designers, artists and creatives in the space and then something interesting happened.

Mind you, I work with a lot of marketing, and media, so when I was on coffee break, I thought I could “chill” with the graphic designer, and have casual conversation about the project. There were a couple of them in that day as well one other from another company in the space.

I was a little ahead of myself, as I was hoping to dive into conversation quickly, but upon sitting down was fairly quiet for the most part. I kept hearing things like, vector, CMYK, raster, kerning, gradient, knolling, red, yellow and blue. OK, maybe not that last part, but pretty sure pink was hotly debated…

There were words that I’ve heard before, but couldn’t explain for the life of me. One of the designers sensing my distress casually tried to explain skeuomorphism which was being discussed. I was totally lost until he showed me the calculator and newsstand app on my phone and was like “Oh ya, so that’s what that’s called!”


Skeuomorphism is when design elements are made to resemble their real-world counterparts.

I think this experience is something that most industries struggle with across departments, disciplines, and industries – a language obstacle.

I was totally lost until he showed me the calculator and newsstand app on my phone and was like “Oh ya, so that’s what that’s called!”

I remember when I bought my first home, my real estate broker sat down with me and explained some of the terminology at the very beginning. We then went shopping for homes. Wrote an offer, and when things came up again, he asked if I remembered what the referenced terms were if I needed a refresher on a specific term.

Working with graphic designers frequently, I hear their jargon all the time, like vectors. I sort of get it, it’s the outlines of a picture so you can enlarge it, kind of. I’m not sure what the technical definition actually is, or the science behind it, except that we need to have certain things, like our logo, to be vectorized, so it doesn’t become pixelated when enlarging images.


What happens when a non-vector image is enlarged too much (or perhaps a piece created by street artist Invader).

There are many times though, something is mentioned and I have no clue what is being referenced. I can try to interrupt, perhaps look lost and attempt my wide eyed look that a child gives when they’re just as lost in the mall, away from their parents, as I am at that moment. I suppose I can wait it out, then finally explain that I have no clue what was being talked about for the past two minutes.

As artists, designers, typographer, etc you all work with individuals who are not exposed to the creative realm on a constant basis. Patience and care must be taken, with the understanding that yes, you may potentially have to explain what kerning means, and every single time it is brought up; or perhaps just say “sliding specific letters over to help make the word look more proportional and pretty” Having a common language is not beneficial to you, but to the client as well. It prevents misunderstandings because not even five minutes later, your client may not remember the difference between kerning and tracking except that both deal with space between the letters. They think.

Common language is beneficial, well, it certainly helps when I’m at the Chinese restaurant and say #11 versus trying to say one thing, and making a fool of myself, and the server understanding something totally different. There is no common language for us to speak.

Our job then is not to just create, but interpret and reiterate (many many times). Otherwise, I suppose we can always skip the latter and just create the work, and send along a Cliff Notes type of explanation.