“When it comes to branding, Vectors make the world go ‘round”

Recently I was working on setting up a promotional product for one of my clients that needed to include logos and branding from a variety of businesses in the Fort Worth area.  When I asked for vector art, what I got was everything but vector art.  So I thought now would be a good time to give a primer on why vector artwork is important for branding, and a guide to help you determine if your art is or isn’t in vectors.

What is vector artwork and why is it important for branding?

branding and electronic art

Vector & Pixel images at 100%

Electronic artwork is created in one of two ways:  pixels or vectors.  Unless you’re using software specifically built for creating vectors, you’re working in pixels.

Pixel artwork is made up of tiny squares (pixels).  This is ideal for photographs where you have a lot of complex coloring and shading because each pixel can store multiple colors.  Unless the image is blown up you don’t see the little squares because your eyes decode them for you.  You can take away pixels to make an image smaller, but you can’t add any.  When you make the image larger, the pixels get bigger too.  When they get too big the little squares become obvious and the image gets fuzzy.

branding and electronic art

Same Vector and Pixel at 300%

Vector artwork doesn’t use pixels.  It’s made by connecting anchor points like a “connect the dots” puzzle.  Whether you’re connecting the dots on a small piece of paper or a large wall, the shape you make will always stay the same because when you spread the anchor points over a larger area the lines that connect them adjust by getting longer.

What does this have to do with your branding and you logo?

When you have your branding and your logo design done by a professional it will be created in vectors so it can be re-sized and manipulated without losing quality.  The lines will always be clean and crisp, and the shapes will always be the same.  Most promotional products suppliers require vector artwork because the clean lines are necessary for a quality imprint.  If you don’t a vector file, one of three things will happen:  the people producing the product will tell you they can’t do it, you’ll have to pay extra to have the artwork cleaned and made into vectors, or they’ll do the job and it will look horrible.

While it’s possible to redraw a pixel image as a vector image, it’s sort of like making a copy of a copy.  It will be close, but it won’t be exactly the same as the original.  But from a vector file you can easily convert to any size or pixel-based format you want.  Whenever I do a branding package or logo development for one of my clients I convert their files into every format they could need, but I make it very clear that the most important file they have – is their vector file.

How do you know if your logo file is in a vector file?

These file types are NOT vector files:
  • .jpg
  • .gif
  • .psd
  • .tiff
  • .bmp
  • .png
These file types are vector files:
  • .ai
  • .cdr

These might be vectors: Of course, it can’t be as simple as a “yes” or “no” on a couple of file types because it would just make things too easy. Because there are multiple ways to create these file types, they may or may not be vector files. It all depends on how they were created. The two tricky ones are:
  • .pdf
  • .eps

When in doubt, send your files to a graphics professional and ask him/her to check it for you. They will be able to open them in vector software and see if they are true vector files or wannabe vector files.

By the way, while vectors are important for your branding, understanding pixels is important too. Next time I’ll give you some lessons on how/when/why to use different pixel formats, and how to determine how big you can make the images without getting distortion.

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