• kirstymacleoddesigns

My Personal Graphic Design Glossary

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

In the first semester of year 1, I was given some excerpts from writings about graphic design, to read and analyse for later group discussion and, in the process of doing so, I have stumbled upon a number of words I did not recognise. I have compiled these words into a list, and hope to make sense of their meaning in the context of the graphic design discipline.

  • Self-actualisation – ‘the motive to realise one's full potential’:

In the context of graphic design or design in general this could mean stepping outside the boundaries of ones comfort zone in order to improve and develop, and could involve learning a new skill, experimenting with different mediums and softwares in order to materialise a design vision.

  • Skirmish – ‘an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting, especially between small or outlying parts of armies or fleets’


  • Schism – 'a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief':

Synonyms for these words include clash and conflict, and division or split, which could indicate that these word could be used to describe a clash or divide in opinions on design styles, or general graphic design theory.

  • Ephemeral – ‘lasting for a very short time’:

This could relate to a lot of areas of graphic design, as the nature of the discipline means it is constantly changing and shifting and evolving. The word could be used in the context of particular design styles which phase in and out of trends and fashion.

  • Self-reflexivity – ‘Referring to or discussing oneself or ones own creation’:

This word could be used in reference to a designers ability to evaluate their work or their process as a designer.

  • Vicissitudes – ‘a change of circumstances or fortune’:

Synonyms for this word include change, transformation and alteration, and so I would suggest that this word, used in the context of graphic design, could describe the constantly evolving nature of the discipline, the technologies it employs in its processes, and the techniques used to create pieces of graphic design.

  • Ostensibly – ‘apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually’:

This perhaps relates to the occasional superficiality of design if taken at face value without context. Graphic designers could be considered to aim to create pieces that communicate the message well enough to avoid seeming shallow if void of obvious contextual information.

  • Sacrosanct – ‘(especially of a principle, place, or routine) regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with’:

One could argue that nothing in graphic design is ‘sacrosanct’, and part of the beauty of and interest in graphic design lies in the lack of boundaries and rules. With graphic design there is no formula and no set of ‘Golden Rules’ to abide by.

  • Parochial – ‘having a limited or narrow outlook or scope’:

This word could be used to comment on practitioners who produce work that is less unprecedented than their competitors due to a more rigid mindset.

  • Superfluous – ‘unnecessary, especially through being more than enough’:

This might refer to cases where designs could perhaps have been more effective if slightly more minimal, and prompts me to consider whether elements of my own design pieces are ‘redundant’ in the sense that they don’t add to the piece.


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