Design agency glossary, part 1

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Do you know the ABCs of your RFPs and EPSs? Digital agencies, freelancers, and those in creative industries use all sorts of jargon that can leave new designers—and anyone who’s brand-new to a design agency setting—feeling totally lost.

Introducing the Design Agency Glossary from Brooklyn Digital Foundry. This guide’s an ongoing series, and each part will help you get to know 5 design terms from 5 agency departments. Let’s kick things off with part 1:


Term: scope creep
Agency department: client services

Scope creep refers to uncontrolled or continuous changes in a project’s scope that ultimately cost an agency time, money, and margins. Read: major annoyance.

Scope creep often occurs when said scope is not properly defined, documented, or defended. Scope creep is what project manager nightmares are made of.


Term: user flow
Agency department: strategy and user experience

A user flow visualizes the path someone takes to complete a particular task within your product. Flows run the breadth of a single user experience, from entry point through exit and conversion.

The deliverable usually exists in the form of a flow chart, which is incredibly helpful for login processes and sites with complex navigation systems. Sometimes a user flow can help uncover missing pages and screens, or an unexpected, unintended route. Imagine your website as a pixel jungle with a machete-wielding user hacking their way to create desired digital pathways.


Term: smart objects
Agency department: design

Smart objects are a type of Photoshop layer. They preserve the layer’s original size and resolution, even after editing. Smart objects allow designers to manipulate the layer without damaging the image’s original properties and characteristics.

You can scale, rotate, skew, distort, and transform this guy without losing original data. Perfect for that client whose logo is “too small… wait, now it’s too big! Smaller. No, larger. No, smaller…”


Term: retainer
Agency department: business development

A retainer is a type of contract that “retains” an agency’s services for hire on an hourly, monthly, or annual basis. This is different than a “one-off” project. For the most part, a retainer agreement covers either ongoing work or miscellaneous work that isn’t covered in a separate scope.

If a scope-of-work is your sirloin steak entree at dinner, then a retainer is the endless bread basket that keeps you full while you wait. Retainers help agencies spend less time on business development, gain more institutional knowledge as a trusted partner, and properly predict quarterly profits.


Agency department: technology

Amusingly pronounced “WHIZZ-ee-whig,” this acronym stands for “What You See is What You Get.” Originating in the 1980’s, a WYSIWYG is an onscreen user interface, typically an editor, that allows the user to see a visual representation of the information they’re manipulating.

This is helpful for users because they can see something closely resembling the end result, so something is loosely, “MOLWYG” (more or less what you get). WYSIWYGs are now commonplace in content management systems, HTML editors, word processing tools, and blogging platforms like WordPress or Tumblr.

Want more? Check out part 2 of the Design Agency Glossary!


Keren Veisblatt Toledano
Keren is a Senior Strategist at Brooklyn United.

Lindsay DeVellis
Lindsay is a Strategist at Brooklyn Digital Foundry.

Alan Finch
Alan Finch is the Associate Design Director at Brooklyn United.

Dace Wilmott
Dace is a Junior Web Developer at Brooklyn United.

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