Why Businesses Should Own Their Logo Artwork: Raster Art vs. Vector Art

I help to set up online properties for a lot of local clients in the service industry, as well as national clients that carry a high level of brand recognition. In working with these two different types of clients, I often have to work through some graphic design obstacles when it comes to visual branding. I find the main difference between local and national clients is the access to and/or lack thereof company logo artwork. Cue “Dramatic Squirrel.”

 

 

Most national clients, even on the franchise level, have access to a marketing storehouse of some nature from the “mother ship” where they can retrieve approved advertising materials for use locally. This includes all branded versions of the company logo and maybe even detailed instructions on how to use them.

On the other side is the little guy, the local client who often relies on the graciousness of those within their six degrees to help jump start owning their own business and being their own boss. The issue is the local business owner is so busy assembling the big picture to start making money, no one is watching out for the tiny details like owning your business logo and artwork in vector format. In most cases, clients don’t know they’re missing some of these details until years later.

I am really tackling two issues in this post and from here on out I’m mainly speaking to small local businesses and those who design logos for them. You larger, national companies with big marketing departments, someone’s got you covered. You can check out now.

Own Your Business Artwork

In my experience with local businesses, when I ask for a company logo from a client, I receive a 200×75 pixel .JPG at 72 dots per inch (DPI). In the common tongue, that means “practically worthless outside of an email signature attachment.” Much of the time, the logo I’m given is something the client right clicked on with their mouse and saved to their computer from the upper left hand corner of their website.

To be clear, I am not here to poke fun but to educate. Let me into your six degrees for a few minutes and trust me when I say, “If that’s all you have, you don’t own your business artwork.” I understand there is a lot of intellectual property, copyright, and proprietary jargon that might get thrown around by Internet marketing and design firms when they speak with local businesses. I think we should get off the high-horse for a second and think about the business that has trusted us to provide them with a service and/or product. Give them their product. Don’t withhold full access to it by providing them with a “practically worthless” version of what they paid for when they commissioned the product.

Local businesses: please make sure your logo is designed in vector format and that you obtain all of the files and fonts used to create your logo. This is the most important statement I will make in this post.

Raster Art vs. Vector Art

In order to understand the statement about obtaining a vector format of your logo, one needs to understand a little bit about why it is so important in the first place. What is the difference between a vector version of my logo and a raster version of my logo (what I get sent from a client’s website)?

A raster image is a set of dots in grid format where each pixel is one dot of the set. A raster image, often called a bitmap, is resolution dependent. This means as the grid of pixels grow in size, each individual pixel becomes larger and more visible distorting the image the larger it is stretched.

 

Super Mario Raster Pixilization

 

Each individual square (dot/pixel) is visible as the image is stretched and the true nature of the way the image is formed through colored square pixels is illuminated. A business logo needs to be scalable without the loss of clarity for any type of medium. Raster images can only be scaled so far before the image is no longer discernible.

A vector image is a made up of curves, points, and lines that create geometric shapes (paths) through a mathematical equation. Vector graphics are not made up of a set number of pixels like a bitmap and this allows vector artwork to be infinitely scalable with no distortion. Below is artwork I created in a vector art program called Adobe Illustrator.

 

Weyland-Yutani Corp Vector Art

 

A logo for any purpose should almost exclusively be created using a vector program. Walk out the door or fire any graphic design individual or company who tells you otherwise. They don’t have the expertise you deserve or require.

“Knowing is half the battle!”

The cartoon G.I. Joe would conclude every episode with a lesson for its viewers often relating to something that happened in the story. A character would conclude the lesson with, “And knowing is half the battle!”

Raster images are not bad. In fact, they serve a very specific purpose that vector art does not. However, raster programs should not be used for the creation of your business logo, an item that needs to be infinitely scalable. Here is a short list of instances for which each type of artwork should be used.

  • Raster Images: Web Design, Editing Photographs, Down-sizing Images and Minor Edits
  • Vector Images: Logo Designs, Posters, T-Shirts, Brochures, Billboards, Illustrations, Print Media

I hope I’ve explained WHY you need to own your artwork in vector format and given you the context to see its importance. Here is a few action items to consider if you do not currently have your artwork on file or are planning on having a logo designed in the near future.

  1. Ask for your artwork in .EPS, .SVG, or .AI file formats.
  2. Ask for ALL of the .TTF, .OTF, or .FNT files used within the design.
  3. Download a vector file viewer program such as Adobe SVG Viewer
  4. Contact the company who designed your logo and ask them for your artwork making sure you get the files in number 1 and 2 above. If you can’t remember who you commissioned your logo, contact the company who made your sign, does your print advertising, or provides your service vehicles. Chances are they have your artwork or were in touch with the people who do at one point in the process.
  5. When you have retrieved the files, email them to yourself and put them in a folder. Also, put them in a file folder on your computer and make a backup copy to put on a disc or flash drive.

Take ownership of some of the smaller but wildly important details of your local business. Owning your artwork in a scalable form is important as your business grows and you do more marketing. If you don’t own your artwork and have reached a dead end, I suggest sending what you have to a reputable graphic design company and have them recreate it. There are some amazing artists out there and only a trained eye will be able to tell. You will then be prepared as your business grows to market yourself in a professional and scalable manner.

2 Comments
  1. Andy says:

    What if the graphic designer is opposed to giving your company the .ai files as it is intellectual property and it could end up being edited differently. Would you suggest having the client pay more for the editble files?

    1. Jeffrey Powell says:

      Andy,

      I apologize for not replying earlier. I have been out of town for the week. Thanks for the comment! This is a great question and is probably also a sensitive one. It is only my opinion, and also that of Advice Interactive, that the client should own the properties or work they pay the agency to create or complete. I wish I could say this is the prevailing practice in the industry, but the more clients we deal with who come to us from other agencies, I find this is not true. They come to us with little to nothing most of the time because of agency ownership rights, intellectual property, etc. My opinion on this matter is that agencies are doing the client a disservice. I do believe the agencies can rightfully put their original work in their portfolio, retaining the work so that if it is changed down the road, the original file is still preserved. I do understand the fear of artwork being edited and passed off as original, but if the client has paid for it, they should own it.

      As you mentioned, putting a premium on editable content (varying licenses if you will), is something many agencies will do, even services like iStockphoto. Personally, I wouldn’t call it a license, because that would mean the client would have the option to not own their artwork. Instead, I’d just charge more and be up front about the cost being reflective of them owning all of the artwork, fonts, etc. used in the creation process. You could build font purchase prices into this up front cost, and any other extra costs you may incur. Each job can be different depending on what you anticipate needing. But in the end, I still would find a way to make sure the client walks away with everything they paid for and it’s the agencies job to communicate that up front also.

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