Terms, acronyms, values — so much information can be confusing! We're to help. Reference these common terms to understand different areas of marketing, brand, design and more. 

AI or Adobe Illustrator file is a vector image format used in original Adobe Illustrator design files.

Baseline metrics are time-lagged calculations (usually averages) that provide a basis for making comparisons of past performance to current performance. Baselines can also be forward-looking, such as establishing a goal and determining whether the trends show the likelihood of meeting that goal. They become an essential piece of a key performance indicator (KPI) (see KPI).

Benchmarking is a technique or process by which an organization investigates other organizations to determine how they achieve a certain level of performance, then tries to reach or exceed those levels in order to improve its own performance.

Bleed is the area outside the designated trim lines of a design that is still printed in case the cuts are not exact.

Body copy is the main text of any sort of design. The body copy is distinct from the logo, headline or subheading.

brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. ISO (International Organization for Standardization) brand standards add that a brand “is an intangible asset” that is intended to create “distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefit/values.”

Brand architecture is the structure of an organization’s brands, products and/or services. It includes an integrated system of names, symbols, colors and visual vocabulary. 

Brand attributes are the core characteristics that inform the brand essence and help capture our university’s unique qualities and personality as a whole. 

Brand awareness is defined as the percentage of potential customers or consumers who recognize — or name — a given brand. Brand awareness is a marketing concept that enables marketers to quantify levels and trends in consumer knowledge and awareness of a brand’s existence. Brand awareness studies are most useful when the results are set against a clear benchmark such as data from prior periods, different markets or competitors.

Brand equity is strategically crucial and while many experts have developed tools to analyze it, there is no universally accepted way to measure it. The purpose of brand equity metrics is to measure the value of a brand. A brand encompasses the name, logo, image and perceptions that identify a product, service or provider in the minds of customers.

Brand identity is the visual version of your brand, which can include a logo, slogan, website, packaging and other marketing materials.

Brand personality refers to the psychological nature of a particular brand as intended by its sellers though persons in the marketplace may see the brand otherwise. These two perspectives compare to the personalities of individual humans: what we intend or desire, and what others see or believe.

A brand platform provides the framework for how a brand is presented and communicated to core audiences. 

Brand positioning is the way consumers, users, buyers and others view competitive brands or types of products.

Brand tenets reflect touch points, relationships, experiences and interactions and serve as the core principles that propel the brand forward.

A branded house indicates a strong primary brand with divisions that feature the primary brand name alongside a product or service description (a few examples of branded house frameworks are FedEx and Apple). The branded house architecture capitalizes on established customer loyalty where audiences care less about product features or benefits than they do about the central brand promise they know and love.

CMYK, also known as “four-color process,” stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key, which refers to black. This is a color model that refers to the four inks used in printing.

A creative concept is an emotional translation of the positioning and key messages. This is not a tagline or a headline — think of it more like a campaign.

DPI refers to Dots Per Inch. A higher dpi means a more detailed image, but limitations may remain depending on the type of format the image will appear in.

graphic element is a graphic used as a separate image from a logo. When used consistently, a graphic element can help others recall the organization. Graphic elements are often used as backgrounds or icons in design. They should not be used as primary logos. 

Grayscale refers to a color palette that only uses black, white and the shades of gray in between.

grid is a framework made up of evenly divided, intersecting columns and rows. Grids help designers to align and arrange elements in a quicker, neater and more consistent way.

Hex code is a six-digit code that represents a specific color, often used in computer design programs. 

Information hierarchy refers to the arrangement of elements and content on a page or screen that conveys the order of importance of information.

An integrated campaign in SEO (search engine optimization) marketing involves planning and executing a paid search campaign concurrently with other marketing initiatives online or offline, or both. True integration takes all marketing initiatives into account prior to launch, such as consistent messaging and image, driving offline conversations, supporting brand preference, increasing response rates, and contributing to return on investment (ROI) business goals.

Kerning is the adjustment of space between two characters in type to achieve a more proportional and pleasing balance of space between each character.

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a marketing metric that reflects what is important to the organization and is used to monitor the health and performance of a business, brand or service. Often KPIs are selected for display on the organization’s monitoring tools that display the status of metrics (dashboards).

Leading is the space between lines of type. When the leading is too small, the content can be difficult to read. On the other hand, leading that is too loose can feel disjointed.

Legibility is different from readability. Legibility refers to how well you make out the letters. Readability is the ease with which a reader can recognize words, sentences and paragraphs. Legibility is a component of readability. Factors that affect readability include font choice, point size, kerning, tracking, line length, leading and justification.

Marketing analytics involves the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data from metrics like traffic, leads, sales, advertising, promotions, web activity, social media, and any other relevant marketing activity or financial data.

A mock-up is a realistic representation of how the design will look used to demonstrate, promote and validate the design. This can also be referred to as a design “proof.”

Orphans and widows refer to the words or short lines that appear by themselves at the top or bottom of a column of type. Orphans (a lone word at the top of a page or column) and widows (a lone word at the bottom page or column) are disruptive and make typography less legible.

PDF (Portable Document Format) is an image format best used for print files and web-based documents. A PDF can be saved as low or high resolution.

Pixel is the smallest unit of a digital image or graphic that can be displayed and represented on a digital display device.

PMS (Pantone Matching System) or Pantone is a standardized numerical classification of precise color identification for color printing, which makes it easier for designers, printers and vendors to reference exact color shades.

PPI refers to Pixels Per Inch and measures the density of pixels used on electronic devices, such as camera screens or monitors.

Proof points back up the things communicated about our brand and can be represented through testimonials, stats, personalized content and visuals.

A raster image (also called a bitmap file) is a pixel-based graphic, with each pixel having values for color, hue, saturation and transparency. Unlike vector images, these graphics do not scale well and will become pixelated as you enlarge the graphic. Raster file extensions include BMP (bitmap), JPEG, TIFF, PNG and GIF.

Resolution is a measure of image quality based on dots per inch for printed works and pixels per inch for digital work. Generally speaking, the higher the resolution, the better the images appear, and the more detail is rendered. Lower-resolution images or graphic tend to appear blurry, pixelated or muddy.

RGB stands for red, green and blue. It’s a color mode for all images shown through an electronic display, such as a computer or television.

Sans serif is a style of typeface in which there are no small lines at the end of each character stroke (or serifs). Common sans serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica and Verdana.

Serif font refers to the small extra strokes around the edges of main vertical and horizontal strokes of some letters. Common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Georgia and Garamond.

Stock photo is professionally shot digital photograph used for creative purposes. Stock photos are usually used in lieu of hiring a photographer, or if designers cannot access the images they need from their own inventories of photographs. A royalty-free license grants non-exclusive, unlimited and multiple uses, with few restrictions. Rights-managed images come with rights that are limited, specific, and per-use.

A style guide is a set of design standards for a specific brand to ensure complete consistency in the style and formatting of design assets. This often includes guidelines for color schemes, typefaces, and how logos are used and placed within an asset, among others.

tagline (or slogan) is the verbal or written portion of an advertising message that summarizes the main idea in a few memorable words. The difference between slogans and taglines is that slogans are more flexible and fluid, whereas taglines should stand the test of time. Slogans are more ubiquitous and appear in campaign commercials, on packaging and display ads, whereas taglines are used more sparingly in public-facing messaging.

Tracking refers to the space between characters.

White space, also referred to as negative space, refers to the areas of a design that are not filled with content. White space is an important design element as it helps to let a design breathe, look clean, and not appear overly complicated.

Vector images are created from points, lines, shapes and curves that are based on mathematical formulas. Unlike raster or bitmap images, vector images do not rely on a grid of pixels to form the graphic, which alleviates resolution issues as the image is resized. Vector file extensions include EPS and AI (Adobe Illustrator).

Voice and tone describes how a brand communicates through personality and syntax.


American Marketing Association’s Common Language Marketing Dictionary


University of Pittsburg Office of University Communications