Countless times over my twenty plus years in this field I have run into a common issue – as have many of my colleagues and peers. Companies not owning, or being aware of the need for having, vector file formats of their logos. And the calls usually go the same when I have to call and request them, resulting in the company owner being frustrated, and the vendors being frustrated. And yes, occasionally me.
This typically happens when someone’s cousin’s best friend’s roommate’s mom says she knows a cat who can use a computer and makes something. On a different plane, you yourself are milling around in Word or Paint and create something you fall in love with. And that is great! I support you! But there is a reason I do what I do for a living, and you do what you do for a living – we both know best practices and needs for our respective industries. So let’s make sure you have what you need to look good and be successful!
To start, vector art! So what the hell is vector art? It is truthfully a pain in the ass to try and explain for me, being that I’m not a techie or scientific person, so here goes. By the words of Wikipedia:
Vector graphics is the use of polygons to represent images in computer graphics. Vector graphics are based on vectors, which lead through locations called control points or nodes. Each of these points has a definite position on the x- and y-axes of the work plane and determines the direction of the path; further, each path may be assigned various attributes, including such values as stroke color, shape, curve, thickness and fill.
“So what does that even mean?” Ok, lamest terms. Vector art is essentially your logo in its raw form or an outlined and/or editable format. It means someone in my position, or a vendor that deals with your logo files for print work, is able to change the color of your logo…or make your logo bigger, or smaller, or place your logo on top of another color and it won’t have the dreaded “white box” around it or appear to be fuzzy. We can manipulate the artwork without compromising the quality.
“But I can make it look like that in Word…” Well your printer and t-shirt vendor cannot. Nor can I. You see, we don’t create and produce using that software. The industry standard is based on Adobe products – like Illustrator, InDesign. Not fair? Well hey, I welcome you to write a letter to Microsoft to air your grievances. In the meantime, to quote a dear friend “I have enough friends, I don’t need any more.” Wait. Wrong quote. “It is what it is.” – Keith M. | Edwardsville IL
“Why should I care?” Bottom line. What you put out could be perceived as a reflection of who you are and what you do. Caring enough about how your brand appears to your client base tells them you care about quality and yourself. It gives them confidence about your brand because YOU care. If you are going to a client meeting would you show up in shoes with holes in them, a yellow pit stained white shirt and wrinkled slacks? Maybe but I doubt it.
Reporter in my head interjects, “Erin, Erin, over here! So what is an example of how not having the right file format has hindered a project?”
So I’ll share a common occurrence. T-shirt designs for events. Over the years I have designed countless tshirts, for countless events, but event shirts with sponsorships is commonly where things with logo reproduction gets hairy.
Let’s say you purchase a sponsorship for your favorite charity. They are having an event and will be including your logo on the back of the shirts. Did you ever notice that the backs of shirts are often printed in one color ink? It is extremely common, because this cuts down on production costs immensely. Thus, whatever you submit to your representative needs to be formatted/edited to accommodate this. Each letter, each shape. And the only way to achieve this is editable art, and if you supply a file that is similar to a photo (a flat image) we are limited on what we can do to ensure quality reproduction, and sometimes there is no good option. If you supplied someone with a jpg you essentially sent them a picture of your logo.
Items like t-shirts, signage, and print materials specifically need vector files to print correctly. Otherwise a surcharge may be in order if they or I have to try and rebuild or recreate your files.
So you see, vector art is an extremely important asset for you to have handy. It makes your life better. It makes my life better. It makes Promo vendors lives better…tshirt vendors, embroidery vendors, screen printers, sign vendors…and so on and so on.
If I’ve atleast stopped one person out there from throwing their laptop at a coworker then my job here is done. Thus I leave you with these tips for helping you look your best:
- Your Designer/Marketing Firm/whomever made your logo should give you several formats of it once the design has been completed and the invoices paid. You should have file formats ending with .ai (the original raw file), an editable .pdf, and an .eps saved from the original art.
- NO WORD files, NO PUBLISHER files, NO COREL DRAW files. And if you have that, take what you created to a graphic designer willing to recreate your logo in a suitable format.
- Save your logos to a special folder on your computer or server, also save them to a jump drive as back up
- Fire anyone who deletes the above folder or saves over the files…
- NEVER EVER SAVE OVER THESE FILES! If you open the file, then hit “Save” before you close it you have just undone the necessary formatting.
- Never be afraid to ask for HELP.