Branding 101: All About Art

  • May 11, 2023

Is This Good Art?

"Is this good art?" This is a common question asked of the MARCC Apparel Graphic Designers. A client has forwarded their logo to be screen printed large on a t-shirt. It is a jpeg file they found off of their website and that is "all they have".

The problem is that we need vector art to do a screen print, which a jpeg is not. We need to enlarge it, and we need to reduce the number of colours used usually (1 to 3 colours is common). Not sure the difference between a vector and a jpeg? Keep reading.

The bigger problem, the question I always ask myself is, "Why doesn't your business have a complete set of logo files?"

It is about controlling the quality of your logo, your brand you put out in the world. Something we like to call your Corporate Identity.


Let's Start With What A Vector File Is

A quick explanation is that it is a digital file where the art can be enlarged as big as a billboard without losing quality. Each piece of the art has edges (called curves or paths) with points that can be dragged and manipulated. Colours can be easily changed, and specific spot colours like Pantone PMS can be assigned to each piece. Text can either be editable with the font intact, or can be converted to outlines to be sure it looks how you want it to at the printers end, in case they don't have the font.  

There are a few programs that create vector files. Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw are two examples. The adobe suite of products are very commonly used in the graphic design world. Online programs, like Canva, are also now being used and let anyone quickly create social graphics, logos, and more. More about the do-it-yourself programs and what you need to know further down. I will be referencing Adobe Illustrator, which is our main software used at MARCC Apparel.

What Is A Rastor File?

In contrast to a vector file, a raster file is flattened like a photograph. In our vector programs you cannot select one part that needs to change colour and the more you enlarge it the more quality you lose. If your image goes blurry when you zoom in really close chances are it is not vector.

Vector vs Raster - Enlarging 200% Comparison

Vector vs Raster - Enlarging 600% Comparison

File Types

Common vector file types: AI, EPS, PDF, CDR
You can save a file as SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphic) as well and we are able to open it in Adobe Illustrator. It usually opens in whole or partially as vector, depending on if drop shadows or other special effects are used. NOTE: Saving a jpeg as a pdf does NOT make the art vector. The original file needs to be vector to begin with.

Common raster file types: JPG, GIF, PNG
Files placed in programs such as Word, Powerpoint, Excel will not be vector either.

Extra Cost for Clients
At MARCC 90% of the time we need vector files so we need to convert the raster file to vector.
This generates extra cost for the client in art charges. If it is simple and we recognize the font we can quickly redraw it. If it is more complicated we can sometimes do a quick auto trace, but depending on the size of the file supplied this doesn't always look great. If we don't know the font we will do our best to use a font as similar as we can, which brings me back to Corporate Identity and controlling your brand.


Top image shows a vector file with the edges highlighted -  you can select and manipulate the pieces of the logo separately.
Bottom shows a web image (jpeg) that is a photo in a "box" and cannot be changed.

In a wireframe view you can see the bottom jpeg is just a square with no editable parts. The top vector image shows all the editable paths.

Corporate Identity

Logo Design 101

When you have a logo done for your business, you need to know certain facts to make your logo work in all scenarios going forward. Chances are you will need it for more than just a sign or a website.

You can ask for a Branding Guide to be made up.
With a professional designer this is usually included in the cost of the logo.  It will include some things like:

  • Colours Used: PMS/Pantone, CMYK, RGB, HEX #

  • Fonts Used: Bare minimum, the font(s) used in the logo, but things like what fonts to use in stationary or ads as the title font and paragraph font could be included too. Note that sometimes a font is the starting point of a logo design but it can further manipulated to become custom. In this case ask for fonts that would compliment the logo.

  • Colour Variations: full colour logo with gradients, solid colour(s) logo, b&w logo. Also what it would look like on a dark background. For example, does it, or parts of it, become white or is there a white outline around the whole thing. What about a multi colour background like a photo - how does the logo look?
  • Logo Variations: main logo, icon logo, text logo, stacked logo, horizontal logo.

  • Rules against what can or cannot be done to manipulate your logo; some brands want strict control and some are more lenient. An example might be you must leave a certain amount of space all around the logo always, or it cannot be done in any colours except those specified or you need to get permission to do the logo in pink for a breast cancer awareness campaign.

A little more information to this...
If you are working with a designer on your logo, or even if you are creating it yourself, make sure it works in the following ways. Look at readability and font/colour use in particular.

  • A full colour version, could include gradients and drop shadows, etc.
    This will work for online purposes, for print work (flyers, business cards, ads, banners), for in-house Word documents.

  • A simple 1 to 4 colour version with solid colours, no gradients or other effects.
    You should have PMS colours assigned to these solid colours. This will work for anything that limits the number of colours you are allowed to use, or is expensive the more colours you add. This could be a vinyl sign or vehicle lettering, screen printing on apparel or promotional items.

  • A black one colour version. We commonly use a 1 colour screen print on apparel to cut down on cost, or if you are getting a product laser engraved or embossed, you need a 1 colour version of your logo.

  • Readability: At a small size how legible is your logo? Look at your logo at a small size - printed out small, or zoom out on your screen, as if you were going to put it on a pen where it can only be 1/4" high. If you do this with a full colour logo it will give you a good idea how readable your signage will be from far away.

  • As far as promotional products/branded apparel, legibility and restrictions, the font choice is important here.
    The trend of using serif fonts that are thinner does not translate well to embroidery or small imprints. You can have your main logo with your preferred font, but have alternatives as well. When it comes to embroidering your logo on branded apparel or promo items, a rule of thumb for text: at minimum lowercase text like an "a" or "e" needs to be 1/4" high. Print your logo out and see how small you can go. The font also needs to be thick enough and opened/widened sometimes for best results. MARCC Apparel will always give you a virtual proof with a revised logo so you can approve edits made.  

Logo Layout and Flexibility

At the initial designing stage think of how flexible your logo is for different applications. It is ok to have a main logo  you try to stick to, but you can have secondary options as well where needed:

  • Horizontal layout, for wide but not tall applications (pens, lanyards, banners)
  • Stacked or vertical layout, for square or taller applications (tumblers and mugs, caps, awards)
  • If your logo is a combination of an icon and text, see if you can use just the icon for small areas like your social media avatar. Does it work as a stand alone?

Canva and New Non-Traditional Programs

If you are doing your logo yourself, or someone else is doing it but in a program like Canva, here are some tips. 
Make sure you have read above for all the considerations for a logo design.

  • Download the logo as an SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphic) file if it doesn't give the option for AI, EPS or PDF
  • Download your full colour logo, but also download the b&w simple version. Some special effects used in your full colour logo will open as a photo/raster, not as vector. A simple solid colour logo should be all vector.
  • Download your full colour logo as a LARGE size PNG file, as many pixels as it will let you (4,ooo or 6,000 or higher).
  • Make sure you know what fonts are used in the logo. If any portion of it needs to be recreated, knowing the correct font to tell your supplier ensures it will match your original design.

"This Is All We Have"
This is something we hear all the time, yet on social media there are pictures of bill boards, vehicle graphics and business cards all done with the logo. It is good to note, and to save you money in the future, that you can ask for the final printers files of these items you have paid for. Or if you have a digital proof that you were emailed, the logo can be extracted from that sometimes too.

The Bottom Line
It is just good business practice to have control of your logo. Control how it is shown and used, online and in print. Don't be afraid to share your logo files. Make sure the employees who deal with marketing items have access to them. A little knowledge goes a long way.

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