The One File you NEED from Your Logo Designer
I used to work at a high-end print and design shop where clients would come to me to design print products for their company. All we would typically need from the client was their logo files and any written content for the project. No problem, right?!
Guys, I can’t even tell you how many clients ONLY had a low- res JPG file of their logo. That was it.
SO MANY CLIENTS!
You may be scratching your head because you have no idea why that’s a problem – which is okay because most people don’t! But thank goodness you’re here to learn from their mistakes, though, right? 😉
But before you can completely understand why only a low res JPG just won’t cut it, you need to understand a basic graphic design principle: Raster Files vs. Vector Files.
Graphics are created and saved in two different graphic formats: raster and vector. Here’s the difference between the two:
Raster files are made up of pixels (which are tiny squares that are each assigned a color) that when combined, create a complete image on your screen. Everything you’re seeing on this blog post right now is made up of pixels. The more pixels that make up the image, the higher it's resolution.
The problem with raster files is that you can’t actually add pixels to an image once it’s created. That means that you can’t stretch these images any larger than they already are without loosing image quality. This happens because when you increase the size of a raster file, the pixels themselves also just increase in size, making the pixels more obvious and thus causes the entire image to look pixelated. – I know, total bummer, right?
So what do you do if you want to print your logo large scale? Or even just want to increase the size for your website?
I have the solution!… dum dum dum dahhhhh! – VECTOR FILES!
Instead of being created with pixels, vector graphics are built with these crazy math equations to create solid, smooth lines of color that will never pixelate. This means that the image could be blown up to the size of a building or shrunk to the size of a pea and it would never lose its image quality. It’s basically graphic design magic. (That’s what we’re calling it because the math equation thing is way too complicated for me to understand).
The best part about vector images is that they're always in high resolution, no matter what size you save them at. Huzzah! They’re also typically editable files, so they’re totally necessary if you need to make changes to your logo (or any other file) down the road.
So if vector files are so great (which they are), why would you ever use raster files?
For one, you have to use raster files for the web graphics, as well as any other image that is meant to be viewed on a screen (like a powerpoint or a TV ad). However, these images are going to be saved to the lowest resolution as possible (while still looking clear on your screen) to ensure fast load times because of their smaller file sizes.
Also, images like photographs are raster images (which can never be vector files) because they are made up of tiny dots of color right from the get-go. That’s why professional photographers are the bomb because they can shoot in super high resolution – which is exactly what you need if you’re wanting one of those pretty canvas prints of your family photo this year.
Plus, sometimes designers prefer to design in Photoshop (instead of Illustrator or InDesign), which is a raster-based program. This is okay if you’re designing web graphics, but it's totally not recommended for designing anything else. (Hence why I use Illustrator ALL THE TIME instead of Photoshop. Especially since I can create vector AND raster images in Illustrator).
No matter what, you’re going to need to use raster images at some point. But here’s where you’ll run into problems when you try to use them:
You can totally print a raster image, however you will need to either save it as a high res raster image (which you would probably need the original to do so), or you will have to decrease the size (height and width) of a low-res raster image by about half in order for it to print in high resolution.
So note to self: if you’re headed to the print shop for some marketing collateral, they’re going to want a vector file of your logo in order to make sure it’s as high res as possible.
Swapping out the colors, fixing lines, or changing fonts of your logo becomes extremely difficult, timely (and thus expensive) if you don’t have the original vector file. So if in three years from now you wanted to update your logo (maybe with a new tagline, colors, etc), you would need a vector file to do so. This will allow your designer to open your logo in Illustrator, make your changes and save it right back out as a high res vector file in no time.
This is where raster images really get ya – you can only guarantee the image quality of a raster image if you're saving the image down to a smaller size. If you need your image to be larger, however, there is a good chance you’re just going to pixelate the crap out of it and it's going to look like a turd.
Here’s your main takeaway from this whole post:
Vector files can be saved out as raster files, but raster files can’t be saved as vector files. Keep a vector file of your logo at all times, because it’s super important for all of the reasons listed above!
So what do you need from your logo designer?
You need both raster AND vector files.
Here’s what I give each of my clients:
Raster Files: JPG and PNG
The difference is JPGs have a white background behind the logo and a PNG has a transparent background
Vector Files: EPS and PDF (Illustrator files (.ai) are also possibilities here too, I just leave it out because both the PDF and EPS are editable in Illustrator)
There isn’t a real difference between these other than the fact that different print shops or designers will often prefer one over the others (for no apparent reason I might add). Both of these files are fully editable in Adobe Illustrator so any designer would be able to open them up and edit them if necessary!
As long as you get a vector file of your logo, you’ll be good to go! So before you book your logo designer, be sure that they will provide you with one before you part ways.
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