Designer Hacks Launches Catalyst for Design Terms

design dictionary

I’ll be the first to admit that knowing design terms has never really been one of my strong suits.  When I studied abroad in Denmark, my host family would always ask for the English term of architectural features.  I’d always take a shot at it, but never with much confidence.  I’d see my hosts give me a (polite) blank stare and then look it up on Google.

In saying that, I wouldn’t be the first round draft pick for someone to compile an online design dictionary, but have come to the conclusion that if I want to become a licensed architect, my glossary of design terms needs to expand.  Now that I’m focusing on passing the Architecture Registration Exams (AREs) I’m running into a lot more words that I don’t know.  Since I’d like to pass the exams, I spend time looking up and understanding what each word means.

I have been struggling with how focusing on the AREs will affect the content I create on Designer Hacks.  I love providing content for you all and hope to someday be able to do this full-time, but having my head in books is time away from this site and managing this site takes a lot of time.  Since I’ve been running into all these new design terms, I’ve come to the conclusion that I may be able to kill two birds with one stone.  That is, share the things I’m learning through studying for the AREs with the Design Nation.  So with that I’m excited to unveil the first project towards that effort: Catalyst!

Catalyst is for design terms

If it’s not already clear, Catalyst is a dictionary for design terms.  If your colleague, boss, or professor has ever mentioned something you nod along to but have no idea what it actually is, I feel you.  I don’t like letting people know that I have no idea what they’re talking about when they mention something that is (apparently) common knowledge.  I usually find myself at my desk after a one sided conversation frantically searching the web to learn about this topic.  I’m not frantic because I’m really excited to learn about the topic, but more that I was in the dark for the 15 minute conversation we just had (and am currently spending more time sifting through junk to find good information).

I want Catalyst to be a one-stop-shop for designers where all of the junk has already been sifted through.

design terms

A few years ago I was at a Better World By Design conference and during one of the lectures the presenter said something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter what you do, all jobs are essentially the same, it’s just that learning a new one takes translation”.  While I think that’s an over-exaggeration (don’t worry you won’t see me in surgery prep. any time soon), there’s a bit of truth in it.  After I’m really able to understand something I often see parallels with things that I had learned in the past.  I’ve learned that a lot of things really are about translation and simply knowing terminology.

No, I don’t think you can be a world-renowned designer by just knowing what asymmetry is, but I don’t think you can be one without it.

Catalyst will aim to help in that “translation” for designers!  As my personal intellectual library grows, I promise to break down definitions into layman’s terms and support whatever I can with references and imagery, and share it on Catalyst.  The best part?  You can request additions to the glossary too by sending a

What do you think of catalyst?  Have you found yourself looking online for any design terms?  Less us know below!



  1. Blue Coaster33 - April 27, 2015

    Thorn of Girl

    Excellent information and facts could be identified on this world wide web website.

  2. Designer Hacks Launches Catalyst for Design Terms - January 6, 2015

    […] Designer Hacks Launches Catalyst for Design Terms […]

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