Design Industry Acronym Glossary

POSTED BY Zak Menkel on Apr 27, 2009

Every Industry has its own unique vocabulary, and every industry eventually abbreviates that vocabulary into its own unique set of acronyms – those little 3-4 letter jewels that we almost forget aren’t words themselves.

But this is no LOLing matter. While the goal of this specialized language is to add clarity and efficiency to our communication, the result is often the exact opposite: a layer of jargon and disassociated letters that creates a barrier to understanding and makes non-industry folk or newcomers feel like the clubhouse door just slammed shut in their faces.

The design/interactive industries are no exception, and I’ve compiled a short glossary of some of our more commonly used acronyms. Hopefully this serves to help clients and coworkers alike decipher the impenetrable fog that is industry jargon and to remind us that when it comes to communication, we should remember that other timeless acronym: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.


AIGA: American Institute for Graphic Arts – a not-so-secret society of designers known for throwing good parties at our office, thanks Halli & Dana.

B2B: Business to Business – historically used as a warning label affixed to half-assed design work, the assumption being that if it’s someone’s job to look at it, they won’t mind looking at powerpoint slides that make their eyes bleed. We all know what they say about assumptions...

BOB: Best of Breed – whether we’re talking dog’s, horses, websites or photoshop comps – you gotta squeeze the rump and check the gums to be sure it’s good... Who decided that analogy was appropriate?

DXC: Design by Committee – the death of beautiful work by way of 1000 tiny cuts from 100 large egos.

EDD: Ego Driven Design (See also SDD: Senior Design Director)

EOD/EOW/EOM/EOY: End of Day/Week/Month/Year – translation, no, you can’t have it now.

FPO: For Placement Only – translation: “don’t judge me!”

HPD: Hipster Powered Design – characterized by an aggressive bucking of the latest design trend the rest of us haven’t heard about yet... and tight pants.

HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language (or as it is often referred to around here: ‘Not Flash’)

ISMH: Insert Sports Metaphor Here: useful for those occasions when you’re just too lazy to type out “Hit it out of the park,” ”let’s punt on this,” “cover all the bases,” “4th and long,” or “Get it over the goal line.”

JO: Job Order. Shame on you and your dirty mind…

NTH: Nice to Have – translation: probably not gonna have.

OSM: Off-Site Meeting – translation: at the coffeeshop, in the bar, or asleep in the stairwell.

RIF or “Riff”: Reduction In Force – aka: labor pool repopulation, resource engineering, career change opportunities, decruiting…

ROI: Return on Investment – translation: What’s in it for me?

ROTFL: Rolling On The Floor Laughing - You took a hyperbole, turned it into a clich?, made into an acronym, then bastardized that into an verb-adjective? Just stop. Please stop. Have a little respect for yourself.

RSS: Really Simple Syndication, a web feed used to publish frequently updated works (i.e. blogs). Seriously, that’s the technical term for it. Technically neurosurgery is just ‘brain poking…’ right?

SEO: Search Engine Optimization – aka TGA: Tricking Google’s Algorithm. This is the extremely complex, labor intensive modern day evolution of a process that a few years ago only involved buying a bigger ad spot in the Yellow Pages.

SOW: Scope of Work – fancy-pants way of saying ‘job’ or ‘project’ (‘Scope’ being a common euphemism for money).

SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats - A frequently used analysis matrix. Useful for making any strategic deliverable sound as important as a WWII battle plan or a Colin Farrell movie. Bonus: lends itself well to Venn Diagrams and multi-colored powerpoint slides.

TLA: Three Letter Acronym – as in, “Can you come up with a TLA for that phrase so I can use it to make me sound more competent?”

TML: Two Martini Lunch – a 50’s throwback, usually followed by an afternoon’s worth of internet browsing and a dramatically increased frequency of exclamation point occurrence in outgoing emails..

TML: Three Martini Lunch – another 50’s throwback, usually followed by an OSM [see above].

URL: Uniform Resource Locator. Seriously, did anyone know that?

VP: Nothing. Seriously, this title seems to have no discernable meaning.


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