• Akshayta Rao

5 things designers say but you have no idea what they mean

Wait…. What? Is this a Buzzfeed article? No! But is this another obvious attempt to get you to click on my website link? Maybe ;)

With a heavy heart, I must admit that designers tend to be slightly (read very) smug when it comes to talking about design. We believe that since we are the only ones privy to its complexities, it’s okay to have our noses up in the air. We’re slowly replacing investment bankers as the professionals who use the most jargon. Except that we don’t get paid as much as they do *hmpf*.

But, now that you’re here, let me feed into your annoyance towards designers by clarifying all the uber-pretentious things we say in an effort to sound superior.

"It’s a typeface, not a font."

In our defense, it really IS a typeface and not a font. To put it simply, ‘typeface’ refers to the family of the font such as Arial, Helvetica, Comic Sans etc. Whereas ‘fonts’ are the different weights that you use, like Arial Bold, Arial Narrow, Helvetica Bold etc. Mixing the two concepts is as infuriating to us as it is to chefs when people confuse cupcakes with muffins. So, now that you know the difference, the next time you’re in a meeting, throw around the word ‘typeface’ and watch the designers in the room wipe the shock off their faces and the non-designers wipe the confusion off theirs. It’s fun!

"Black and white aren’t colours."

In physics, a color is visible light with a specific wavelength. Black and white are not colors because they do not have specific wavelengths. Instead, white light contains all wavelengths of visible light. Black, on the other hand, is the absence of visible light. This scientific jibber-jabber is why designers think we’re the kings of colour. But to be very honest, when we say this, we are just being morons. There is still much debate around whether black and white qualify as colours, so for now, you can all relax. And feel free to punch a designer in the face the next time he spouts this nonsense.

"Never use Comic Sans!"

If there were ever a Bible on design, I think this would be the title. It is also a classic example of unfounded conditioning. Most people don’t even know why they hate Comic Sans. We’ve repeatedly been told it’s a bad font, so we’ve come to believe it as gospel. But there is definitely a rationality associated with the abomination of Comic Sans and that has to do with its structure. Professional typographers state that the typeface is so poorly designed that is seriously hampers legibility and speed. As an experiment, try reading the following sentences as fast as you can.

OxyContin is a synthetic drug that is similar to morphine in its effects.

Technetium was the first element to be created with deuterons in 1937.

Not only is the first sentence easier on the eyes, it has more characters than the second, yet occupies significantly lesser space. Of course, you’re not breaking any rules by using Comic Sans, but if you want to be taken seriously, I’d suggest choosing common sense over Comic Sans.

"It’s not empty, it’s negative space."

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked to “fill up the artwork” because it looked too empty, I would’ve paid off my design school fees without batting an eyelid. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the importance of negative space and in the bargain, designers end up looking like the bad guys. In reality, the negative space acts as an accelerator, magically increasing the pace at which the user absorbs the content. If he has only a finite amount of time to consume the design, it is absolutely essential that he retains key pieces of information and isn’t distracted by all the excess material on the page. In this scenario, the negative space actually becomes more important than the positive. And that is exactly why designers are fighting this battle of negative space versus cramped design and so far, it’s a tie.

"That image resolution just won’t work!"

For those who are not in the design world, this could be one of life’s greatest mysteries. It is also something that designers cannot let go of because it’s just common sense. Each screen has a certain size a.k.a. a certain resolution. Any image that needs to be placed in a screen needs to match the resolution of that screen. It’s almost like fitting a small photograph in a really large photo frame. It’s undeniably messy and quite frankly, foolish. You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that increasing the size of the image should just solve the problem. But life isn’t that easy and neither is design. Size and resolution are inversely proportional, so if you go on making the photograph bigger, it will automatically decrease the quality/crispness of the image. So, the next time you’re wondering why a designer is grilling you about resolution, know that he’s done his homework and is just being mindful of the final output.

Of course, there are a million other bizarre things you might’ve heard a designer say, but in all honesty, we’re just being ourselves. Our minds are abuzz with these little nuances and we are just as helpless as Grammar Nazis when it comes to correcting someone. Please don’t judge us, we mean well and we definitely won’t bite. Unless you’re an investment banker using Comic Sans. In that case…


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Welcome to Tryst with Design. This blog has added immense value to my life, and I love having the opportunity to share my musings with you. Read on, and enjoy.