Starting a business or changing an established brand are exciting. You put bits of yourself into everything you do. You want your brand to showcase who you are, let people know what you do and establish what you do! Communicating all of that to the world is as important as your business name. Now imagine you order your tote bags, send them your new logo and when you get them, they are not what you imagined. Your heart sinks as you dial the vendor. After some holds and a few transfers, the printer says, “hey, that’s the art you sent us”.
It matters how that logo looks, every single time you print it. So, beyond the actual design… what are the things you should know to get exactly what you will need in the future?
Before the Logo Designer Begins:
A good designer will understand before ever sitting down to do the work:
- your customers or their motivations,
- your values, vision, mission, and
- your timeline.
They may even discuss with you:
- color, or
During the Logo Design Process:
A designer will sometimes give a range, like “in about three weeks”. Set the relationship up at the beginning to succeed: let the graphic designer know your expectations. I will stick up for my artistic brethran here, and say sometimes more time is exactly what we need to pull it together. I would never assume they weren’t on top of it. I’m just saying that the process is different for everyone, and sometimes inspiration doesn’t run on the same clock as the designer’s good intentions. Just being real.
One word: “communication”.
They need to tell you if they are going to be late, before they miss a deadline. You need to tell them if you expect completion by a certain date.
A better word: “vector”.
We’re going to get to that, but first some practical examples of printed marketing needs for a business.
Here’s the setup: Your graphic designer gives you a beautiful color logo (yourprettylogo.jpg). It looks great and you’re excited to put it to use. It’s blue and black: 2-colors, right?
I’m afraid it’s not. To achieve that blue (or any color, other than black!), your printer needs to use a full-color setup to print a jpeg in color.
Why is a full-color logo “bad”?
Example 1: Your project is a one color brochure. That’s all the budget allows! So, now the printer needs to convert yourprettylogo.jpg to “grayscale” (that’s black ink in shades of gray).
To know: when you print one-color and lines are solid – a piece of vector artwork will print @ 1200 dpi (that’s “dots per inch”, my brotha). The same artwork as a JPG will only print @ 300 dpi.
1200 dpi eats 300 dpi for breakfast.
Example 2: Now, you’re taking out a directory ad. You’re allowed to use red & black in the design. You like the idea of your logo colored red where the blue is now, but with a JPG there’s no easy way to change the colors. You’re stuck with the grayscale again. The ad looks OK, but the type is bold and clean compared to your logo… It’s a less than appealing way to showcase your company’s brand.
I’ve attempted to recreate what the difference would look like if you were going to print a 300 dpi logo right next to pretty (vector) text at 1200 dpi.
Back to the artist who’s working on your logo design, cuz I’m going to help you avoid the junky logo.
Here it is, the magic pill: Ask them to design it in a VECTOR based program. If they can’t, you may consider someone else. If they say they design in Photoshop, be wary, this is a RASTER program. This is the program most widely used for really fun stuff, (gradients, bevels, drop shadows…) and really cool logos sometimes… just get it in vector first. (*the 3-d effect of the science channel “morph” logo was very likely designed in PSD.)
Vector Graphics vs. Raster Graphics
Vector: Mathematical lines and points tell the computer where to draw the lines. It can be re-sized, re-colored, and rearranged to fit any project without compromising the integrity of the art. You will have those clean lines on a billboard if you want ’em!
If it is not vector— it’s a “raster image”.
Raster: The computer reads pixels made of color. These are photographs. Size is limited to the output-resolution. The artwork can only print so large before it begins to look bad or the file size becomes unmanageable. When a change needs to be made, it’s time-consuming and costly.
After your Logo Design is Approved:
I’ve talked about the necessity of having a vector logo and the freedom it allows. This will save time, and above all, setup charges. But, what exactly do you need: handy & on your computer?
Common vector file extensions: .ai, .fh, .cdr, .eps, and sometimes .pdf
Common raster file extensions: .jpg .gif .png .tif .psd .bmp (and a bunch more)
At a Minimum: ask for the native file, an .eps, and a .pdf. You should be covered.
I would suggest getting a bunch of formats and sizes of your new logo in raster. It’s tough to make these the right size for different applications on your own. I’ll post how to do that later, but for now, just try to cover a few bases. I like to name files with dimensions. i.e. myprettylogo-500×150.jpg
While they are at it, maybe they could design a secondary square logo for social media!
It is practically mandatory to have a .gif &/or .png with a transparent background for web use.
I would suggest getting a couple sizes for this too. So if you need to put your logo on a colored background you won’t have a white box around it.
.tif (tagged image format): This is actually a full-color logo. Ask for it in ‘CMYK’ for printing projects. Again: get a few sizes.
Logo Design is an Important Investment.
I know that was a lot. If you can remember “vector” you’ll at least have the file you need to have a printer or another designer in the future to the ability to create what you need. When you can meet specifications and get the best quality out of your branded products, printing is is exciting!
Ask me your format questions in the comments.