Wednesday, September 23, 2009

logo design : what kind of files to expect

for the benefit of both young designers and clients purchasing a logo. this post is outlining the tangible files that one should receive when purchasing something as intangible as a logo.
as such i am writing in layman terms that all can understand as i specifically want to educate those commissioning a logo. my apologies to all the well-educated designers! ;)

when we start working with a new client and request that they send us their logo, many times all they have is a low- to medium-resolution jpeg. it always leaves me wondering how they got to where they are without proper logo files. then i wonder about the designers behind those logos.

of course not all blame falls on the designers. part of the problem is often the turnaround inside corporations during which logo files are being misplaced. no doubt it is the responsibility of the client to keep their files in order, however i believe it is important for us designers to set them up as best we can.

so first things first: what should the nature of those files be? recently when i requested a client send us the new logo art for a recently acquired company, all they had to provide us with was a pdf with three logos on it: obviously a developmental-stage document of the logo design. i was absolutely shocked. now instead of exposing the things that were wrong with this file — and there were many — i will tell you what this client should have received from the designer.

1. the native illustrator file
all native files should be in illustrator. there is one simple reason for that: it is the only format that is vector-based. what that means is that your logo is made of vectors and has the capacity of being blown up as big as a billboard if you so wish. to expand on distinctions, a photoshop file is made of little square pixels and the more you blow up such a file, the more you increase the size of the pixels, and the more they become visible. (see below in the right vignette)

the final native file must be totally impeccable, with only the final logo art and its final colours. files can get quite messy during the creative process, so that mess must be cleaned out.

2. the logo art must be outlined
that is something that is only visible in illustrator under preview mode, but is very important to ensure the integrity of the logo itself in its reproduction. and that most definitely includes the type. if the type has not been converted to outlines (or paths) it is likely to show up differently at some point on somebody else’s system because of missing fonts. with the advancement of technology nowadays it might not happen as often, but i certainly don’t leave it to chance.

3. the file formats to expect
your native illustrator logo files will most likely be in eps format (with a .eps extension). an illustrator file with a .ai extension is perfectly okay, but you the client won’t be able to do anything with it — much less view it; this format is strictly for your design team as it can only be opened if you have the software. then you should also get some jpg files, and those are for your internal usage (they can easily be placed in office documents) as well as that of your web team. in certain cases other formats have been provided for specific usage, so you could get other types of files as well depending on your needs. just keep in mind the important ones!

4. the various colour files
there are many files you will receive and each has its purpose. your immediate needs might not cover all of them, but as part of your logo design commission you should still receive them all.

pantone colour files | illustrator eps
those colours are from the pantone matching system (also referred to as PMS), a swatch book specific for inks used by offset printers (there are other colour systems but this one is universal in north america). the most common usage for your pantone logo will be your corporate stationery. the only time you might not need such a file is if your logo has more than three colours, as it might not be economically-sound to print it with custom inks. the google logo is a great example of such case. visit

process cmyk colour files | illustrator eps
your logo should have its colours appropriately converted to four-colour process or cmyk, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black (also for offset printing). a good designer will do this task manually as the softwares’ default conversions do not always use acceptable recipes. additionally, some colours do not convert well at all, so it is our job as designers to make sure that they do. (pantone conversion swatch books and cmyk grids are most useful, but tests are also necessary). a common usage for your cmyk logo will be advertising in colour publications.

an example of a four-colour print (such as a magazine) viewed under a magnifying glass.

rgd colour files for all web and screen related usage | photoshop jpg
your rgb colour logo will be in a jpg format. it will be used for everything digital such as email signature, electronic letterhead, as well as for your web team. again, it is our job as designers to make sure the colour conversion is as visually accurate as possible, not relying solely on software conversion recipes. it is important to make note of those colour recipes so i personally prepare an illustrator file which can be accessed by any future designers that need them. for this reason you might receive a rgb file with a .eps or .ai extension.

black and white logo version
most logos can easily be converted to black and white in photoshop. however a good designer will create a perfect b&w version with no greyscale in it (or very little). the most common usage for your b&w logo will be newspaper advertising, or low budget one-colour printing. the reason for simplifying a b&w logo is to increase its clarity when printed on newsprint or on promotional material (in which case you might have to completely eliminate the grey).

reversed logo files
this is not always necessary depending on the colour of the logo, but it can be useful. for example if your logo is in a dark blue, you might need a reversed version should you need to print it on a dark background. this by the way is not always up to you. should you sponsor an event for example, the event material will be designed by a third party, and you should be able to provide them with a logo that will work for them. alternatively a white release can do the trick.

logo with a white or black release
what that is, is a logo with a white or black outline around it, very commonly used with sports team logos. this is of a rare necessity for most, but can be extremely useful for stitching and in cases where the logo includes a complex illustration. again, sports teams are a great example.

logo guidelines
this is intrinsic to the creation of a logo and the development of the brand. the guidelines will be quite simple at first but as the design of the corporate material gets created, you want to make sure guidelines are established for all future designers who will work with this logo.

i know this seems like a lot, and indeed it is. a bit tedious maybe, and slightly time consuming, but it is not very complex at all to create. for the client commissioning a logo, it is the tangible product they should be getting to be prepared for all eventualities. no designer appreciates receiving ongoing requests for logo versions to accommodate a client’s needs. so it is our job to make sure they are well equipped from the beginning and that all their unique needs are covered, which might include versions i did not touch on, such as a logo with a tagline.

some logistic information: i usually burn several cds for my clients with all their logos on it. if the client has a server, i have them place the files in a secure location easily accessible by all employees. most clients will have some experience with regards to managing their logo, but if they are a new company, i do not assume that they do, so i offer some support in educating them. the integrity and consistency of logo usage and branding is a huge task inside corporations, so those small logistical details are a huge contribution to them. and as my design mentor used to say... god lives in the details.

note: illustrator and photoshop are both adobe software
BCHL, simply flooring and GXL logos are designed by GR:D

Sunday, July 26, 2009

helvetica : the movie

this is absolutely a classic! understanding typography, its characteristics, its usage, its qualities, its impact, and its artistic beauty, is something that all scholar designers learn in-depth during their graduate studies. this documentary encompasses all of that, and really takes a deep look at how typography is used in our culture and how it affects us in our daily lives. those on unfamiliar territory may even get an understanding of what good typography is. some natural talents might have an inherent intuition of good and bad typography, but those are far and few. for the rest of us, a good schooling is a needed exercise in achieving this knowledge. this movie is a small bridge to that destination.

i myself come from a very classic schooling. i actually studied during five years at both concordia university in montreal and ocad in toronto before graduating in graphic design, formerly referred to as commercial arts. in that time i completed three courses in typography alone. so you might ask "what the heck can there be to learn about typography to fill up three years worth of content?" obviously, i cannot say in a short blog post. besides, if you’re not a designer you might actually not care that much either. but if you do, the movie helvetica is a very good documentary on the functions and complexities of typography in our modern world, starting with the font helvetica itself at the core of its history. in other words, i would say that helvetica is to typography what shakespeare is to literature.

so if you haven’t yet seen it, i highly recommend this documentary to all those who appreciate typography. if you’re not a designer you might fail to see some of the humour of this classic film, but if you are of the old school of design and advertising, i promise you, you will love this movie!

here is the official movie preview, and more can be found on their official site here, plus some documentary information at imdb. now if all you watch are the previews, you will still get a little taste of helvetica! and if you like what you see, like a delicious hors d’oeuvre... you will probably want to go back for more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

speaking their language

understanding design subtleties when you’re not a designer is quite a challenge. as a designer, explaining those subtleties can be just as challenging! recently i designed my very dear friend maria killam’s blog masthead (commonly referred to as a header), and in my interaction with her i really got present to what it is we take for granted in our professional knowledge, and how best to communicate the impact of what we’re creating in such a way that it is easily understood.

as a visual person i try my best to illustrate my explanations in ways that are either familiar to my client or generally easy to relate to. for example, typography can be categorized in two major families such as serif and sans serif. but then there are thousands of fonts within those two families, and to most the differences that exist between them are really difficult to see — never mind understanding why we choose one over an other. just like wine can be mainly categorized as red or white, if you’re a wine drinker you know that what really matters is the kind of grapes used, the aromas and the finish. then there’s an entire science to just pairing wine with food.

can you spot the subtle differences?

when maria asked me about the font i picked for her blog, i related the subtle differences in the fonts to the undertone in paint colours. being an interior designer maria knows the importance of picking a wall colour with the "right" undertone given the other components in the room. when choosing a font i explained, the details are just as important within the context it is used, and in her case i wanted the lines in the font to compliment the beautiful lines in her illustration.

clients ask a lot of whys when you design something because they need to relate to a solid explanation for your choices. and granted, when they pay you big dollars for your expertise, it is fair for them to get their answers. so speak their language! just like i used maria’s language of design for her to relate to my graphic choices. in my view that is the easiest way to get each other’s expertise — not to mention sell your creative concept! because when people understand, more often than not they are also enrolled in your idea.

btw : maria killam is the one who inspired me into blogging. although i haven’t yet done as good a job as her with her blog, i’m working on it. — thanks maria!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

when a picture ≠ a thousand words

such it is that once in a while a client demands that you fit a lot of text in a very small space. that, my friends, is when your typographic skills need to shine. it is never impossible to make copy fit, although i have often told clients “don’t worry, i can make your copy fit even if it needs to be 4pts small,” jokingly of course. the task of making type legible and communication effective without compromising the design is always a challenge.

one of those challenges occur when a small independent consultant has neither a logo nor a company name to perfectly describe the nature of their business. then they will often request to list all the things they do on their business card, which of course is not quite the best venue to do that. however it is important for those who will glance at the card to know what exact type of services the consultant is providing, as so many words used on cards are often too generic!

one simple solution i have used on occasion, is texture: creating somewhat of a wallpaper with typography, and using the pattern to integrate the services provided. alternatively, creating a graphic element with typography can also be quite elegant. that, in combination with the title of the consultant and their company name, usually gives a pretty full picture of what it is that they do! below are some examples from GR:D

here we used the back of the card to list all the types of events that shelley produces. otherwise, her company name as well as her title were too vague to narrow down her specialty.

in kerri’s case, she was in the process of re-orienting her career, but she felt it was important to let people know she was still providing some of her old services in the transition.

for janice, who is resuming her career as a writer and who is also well known in the advertising industry, we simply wanted to inform people of the different types of writing she provides.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

walrus : really cool new store with wonderful spirit

the thing about being a designer is that we have a complete appreciation for all things that are beautifully designed – no matter what type of design they are! as a communication & web designer myself, my love for beautiful things expands in ways i cannot express in words. today i stumbled across something truly out of the ordinary that caught my eye, and upon entering this interesting new store i discovered something i really want to share with you.

i was on cambie street – in what is now called the 'cambie village' – and i saw this new store front with a very 'new york soho' look to it: walrus, a design gift store, or more appropriately described, a very interesting and cool items boutique. beautiful designs and very cool ideas make for something worth writing about!

i of course had to have a chat with co-owner caroline boquist, and i discovered a fresh and wonderful spirit behind this awesome store! their primary concept is to look for crafty items from around the world that are unique in their design and which carry a brilliant concept of material and efficiency in their usage. things like handmade bags from the netherlands which are made out of recycled inner-tubes and look absolutely cool and fabulous (perfect for our rainy season in vancouver), beautiful german-made garlic graters that look more like they belong in your display bookcase (i have one from the south of france and they work amazingly well), or paper bags for candles that are specially fire-proof treated (i saw some in an alley in croatia, and until today wondered how they didn’t burn)... anyways, i could go on and on... but i sure wouldn’t want to spoil all the surprise!

so next time you have a chance to take a stroll down cambie street, go check it out! i promise, you will find something worth taking home – if not for yourself, for the special someone(s) you love! / store info below pictures

walrus co-owner: caroline boquist (partner daniel kozlowski not present)

walrus store: filled with very pleasant surprises

for more beautiful photographs (and more professional) check out their blog!

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walrus : a pleasant surprise
3408 cambie street @ 18th avenue, vancouver  |  604 874 9770  |
tues-fri 10-7  |  sat 10-5  |  sun 12-5

Saturday, February 21, 2009

a designer’s weakness

i must admit to have a great fondness for the juice of the gods, preferably the very deep red, with lots of long legs, fully flavoured and full-bodied kind. you guessed it, i do love my wine! i have a great application on my iphone where i keep notes of recommendations as well as some of my favourites, and i also have a journal in which i keep notes on the best moments spent with the best bottles. now that i have started blogging, i thought i could share some of my tasting adventures, from the good value mid-week wines to the very special occasion extravaganza ones (yes, that’s a mouthful). so please go visit my other blog if you too enjoy this heavenly beverage, and please do share some of your favourites! ~ bottiglia di vino

Thursday, February 19, 2009

typographic jumble

this is cool... someone posted this wordle link on facebook and it caught my attention. over the years many beautiful typographic compositions have been created in this style, and now apparently someone has developed an application that can automate how it’s being done. okay, maybe it’s not as well done creatively-speaking as if each word were placed thoughtfully in this random way – yes, a true artist would think carefully twice before placing each word beside another, because subconsciously the relationship between each word creates an impact (rohdesign demonstrates a beautiful example in his tote bag design) – but still, this application will give you a pretty interesting composition! so have fun today. take your favourite poem or quote and create one of your own. / it’s just silly fun!

my word jumble, top: success   middle: the secret of wisdom   bottom: love
you can always just have a look at mine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

white space

recently a friend of mine mentioned that one of the most valuable thing she learned from me was the importance of the use of "white space" ~ so i thought i would share some of my work and the richness that "space" can bring to a design when it’s well done.

one important factor when using all that white is to make sure it communicates its own richness & quality ~ meaning "don’t be cheap on the stock" ~ buy a beautiful, rich, thick, high quality paper stock! it truly will make all the difference. people don’t usually know why, but they will say "wow, that card is awesome." simply said, it’s the impact of the intangible, the subtle, and knowing how to use its elements effectively.

lastly, if a client should insist that you include everything that they do on their business card, there really is no need to panic. although most people understand that the function of a card is to communicate contact information, there is sometimes a reasonable need to communicate the extent of services. this last picture is a fair example of using all that information in a clean and impactful way that is yet appealing to the eye. and still, look at all that white space!

for other wonderful examples of elegant white spaces: 7-├ętoiles

above designs from GR:D

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

my first post : a sample

well well, what to say on this momentous occasion? i really just want to test things out and say nothing in the process... now let’s see what this will look like when posted!