Logo File Formats

An overview.

Whenever you take receipt of your new logo or brand identity, you’re going to receive many different files, in various formats, with different names and file extensions. Understanding these formats, what they can and can’t do, is crucial, especially if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, planning to create business collateral – letterheads, brochures, flyers and whatnot – using your own software and applications. Designers and design companies can vary in which kinds of files they supply, but there should always be two types – vector based files and pixel-based bitmaps (or raster) files. These are explained in much more detail elsewhere, but here’s a quick overview.

Vector Files

The most important file you’ll need of your new logo is something called a vector version, a format that many of you may not be familiar with (though every logo you have ever seen probably started life as one.) This is the default format of professional design software, used by designers the world over and is the preferred choice of most printers and print applications. A vector based version of your logo is considered a source file (from it, you or your designer can create every imaginable format using “export” or “save as”) is built out of outlined shapes, called vectors, which can be filled with accurate colors using the Pantone Matching System or other color palettes. Here’s what a vector based file looks like if you were to view it in design software like Adobe Illustrator (the industry standard for vector drawing):vector-version-logo-file
If you’re working in a typical work environment and as critical as these files may be, you won’t be doing too much with them (unless you have design software and some experience.) You will be giving them to vendors, suppliers and designers when they’re tasked with creating something with your logo on it, so you’ll always need to have them at the ready.

See here for more detail on vector files.

Pixel-Based Bitmap Files

The second logo format is a pixel, bitmap or ‘raster’ version – one that you’re probably more familiar with and will use far more in your day-to-day operations. This is the default format of practically every image on the web, as well as the format used in your own digital images taken by your camera or smartphone. A pixel based image is made up from a grid of different colored squares that when viewed from a distance form the image details. There are many different formats of bitmap images – each with their own special properties – but here’s what the concept of them all translates to in practical terms of a logo:logo-bitmap-closeup-example
If you’re working in a typical work environment, these are the files you’ll most likely be using day-to-day. You’ll add them to your emails, insert them into business documents created in office software and use them on your website, Twitter and Facebook pages. You’ll have a variety of these files in different image sizes because their resolution is fixed and different sizes are required for different applications.

See here for more details on bitmap files.

Design Gobbledygook?

Someone reading about these files, formats and concepts for the first time, may see them as too complicated for someone who just wants to use their logo day-to-day. That may be true, and if you’re hiring a professional designer, or have one on staff, you don’t have to worry about any of it. If you’re managing your brand assets yourself and want to do it with professional results, it requires that you have a working knowledge of the material you’re going to be managing. Also, armed with a little knowledge, you can avoid unnecessary charges in reproduction while insuring that your brand – and its cornerstone logo – are always presented to the world in the best light possible.

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