I’m sure you have been there before, discussing creative files via email with a faceless graphic designer that you were referred to by your sister’s friend’s cousin as he throws out obscure terms and sends you files that you can’t open without the proper software. Then, he scoffs when you ask why you can’t open it. Now, I, myself, am a graphic designer, so I can say this: Most designers think you’re dumb.

It’s not that you actually are dumb, or even come across that way in an email exchange. It’s just that-for some reason or another-a majority of designers don’t realize that *news flash* not everybody went to design school and is knowledgeable of what we do all day. Sure, there are some clients who have been through this process a time or two and know how to send an FTP file or know the difference between CMYK and RGB. But assuming other people know the breadth of a topic just because you know all about it is one of my biggest pet peeves.

So, allow me to introduce myself as the least pretentious of all designers you could possibly meet who doesn’t think you’re stupid. Hello, my name is Jessica. Nice to meet you.

In my opinion, one of the biggest headaches designers create for themselves and others in the field is not informing their client of the importance of certain file formats, color modes, trim sizes, etc. When I am dealing with a client, the more I can make them a part of the process-so they feel confident discussing it with others-the better. And my track record of client satisfaction, retention, and referrals is high, so I know what I’m doing.

What’s to follow is a small directory of acronyms commonly used in the print and web design fields. I’ll include for you the actual breakdown of the acronym, but-so as not to give you a brain aneurism-I’ll tell you what it means to your project, which is all you really need to know.

AI–Adobe Illustrator
This is the program designers will most often use to create your logo or other custom illustrations.
Bonus definition:
Vector: Just a fancy way of saying that whatever is drawn in Illustrator/vector format can be resized and maintain quality to as large as you can imagine-even the moon.

CSS–Cascading Style Sheets
This is what gives a website its unique design and keeps creative elements-like fonts, positioning, borders, colors, etc.-consistent throughout all pages. Also, this makes it possible to add more visually interesting effects, like gradients and drop shadows.

These are the four colors used for any print work. Why black is “K” is beyond me.

DPI–Dots Per Inch
This is the resolution, or the quality, of the file. The standards you should know are 300dpi = print projects, 72dpi = web projects. If you try to print something at less than 300dpi, it will probably not come out too great. Also, note: you cannot just change a 72dpi file to a 300dpi file and expect the print quality to follow suit. It just doesn’t work that way.

EPS – Encapsulated Post Script
This is probably one of the most underestimated file types by a client. Any designer worth his black-rimmed glasses will send your logo design in multiple formats. But EPS is, by far, the most important. If you want to use your logo on a billboard (or other large scale) one day, you’ll need the ability to increase the size. You won’t be able to pull this off with the JPG used in your Word docs or the PNG you’ve copied from your website. And just like the DPI rule, you can’t just change a PNG to an EPS and expect the resize to maintain quality. Remember the term “vector” from earlier? That is the key here. Always, always keep the EPS of your logo in a safe place. Even if you can’t ever open it, I promise there is somebody who can. And whenever a future designer you’re working with asks for a copy of your logo, the EPS is what you should be sending them.

FTP–File Transfer Protocol
This is a fast and efficient way to send files from one server to another over the Internet. It comes in handy when you’re working with creative files that are much too large to send via email. Sites like www.cyberduck.com offer services for free-you just need the addresses.

GIF–Graphics Interchange Format
The only time GIFs should be used is in animated web banners. Other than that, there is no reason you should be using them unless you’re uploading hilarious, repetitive short videos to www.gifbin.com. Also, you’re welcome for all the laughing you’ll do when you spend the rest of your day on that site.

HTML–HyperText Markup Language
This is the coding language used for formatting and displaying text and graphics on a website. You plant your CSS tags into this code to make them work.

JPG–Joint Photographic Experts Group
(I told you the breakdowns make less and less sense.) This is the file format generally used for photographs on the Internet. Just a reminder, a JPG file will always have a white background in areas not covered by graphics. So, when you send your logo as a JPG, it will have a white box behind it. Save the EPS if you don’t want to constantly use your logo on a white background.

PHP–HyperText Preprocessor
It seems like the acronym is a bit off on this one. This is a script language used to create dynamic web pages. Dynamic means the content will update based on what you tell it to say.

PMS–Pantone Matching System
Pantone is a company that makes colors. PMS colors, or Spot colors, are used in printing to ensure a color will come out at an exact shade. This is primarily used for consistent coloring in logos and across other branding materials, also, in screen printing on items, such as T-shirts.

PNG–Portable Network Graphics
This is the web-safe file format you want to use for your logo so it won’t have that dreaded white background.

PSD–PhotoShop Document
PhotoShop is the program most designers will use to design your website or edit the photos of your grandma and grandpa for their 50th anniversary invitations.
Bonus definition:
Raster: Just a fancy way of saying this image is the size and proportion that it is, and changing that size is going to affect the quality.

QR Code–Quick Response Code
You’ve probably been hearing more about these lately. They are the odd-looking, black-and-white pixelated symbols you’ll see on brand awareness pieces. Taking a photo of these with your phone (and the proper installed app) will send a potential consumer to your website or online promotion.

These are the three colors used for any web work.

URL–Uniform Resource Locator
This is the web address that you type into the top of your browser, such as www.jessicaisawesome.com. By the way, this isn’t an actual site-just making sure you’ve been paying attention.

You can thank me in advance when you’re able to use these terms like a boss in your future conversations. I may have even prevented you from ending up on a site like this www.clientsfromhell.net. Take comfort in the fact there are plenty of people “dumber” than you.

  • Diane aka Dot

    Not trying to step on toes or make it more confusing for clients but I have a few suggestions.

    Add to EPS:
    a) placing a JPG or TIF into photoshop and saving as EPS does not make a scalable image.

    b) AI is the Adobe way to make an EPS scalable but some folks use Corel Draw or Freehand or some open source (another topic you might add) software.

    Add to DPI: Some folks call this PPI and there is a difference but I don’t remember what it is.

    FTP: sometimes it will be through a web site. sometimes it will be through an app called Fetch. (I prefer non browser FTPing).

    Word: somehow it needs to be addressed that copying/inserting an image into Word or PowerPoint is not the same as giving us the image. I use the analogy of an object under a glass coffee table. Word is the table. The image is the object under it. When you move the coffee table, the image doesn’t come with it. Yes, I know you can sometimes copy stuff out of Word but we should not encourage that.

    Thanks for letting me spew on your helpful blog.

    • Zog PR

      Thanks for your comment, Diane! You’ve added some very helpful tips to the blog!