"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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
"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.