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

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