A logo is ideally created in its final form in a vector graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. This ensures that it is being created in software that is primarily intended for the creation and editing of vector based content. My expertise is with Illustrator, so I will focus on that.
When a logo is finalized in Illustrator, the designer will "outline" certain elements, such as typography. This is to ensure consistency on other computers which may need to open the logo file. Primarily this is done to eliminate any missing font issues. It can also be done to ensure that the weight of lines is consistent, as a "stroke" in Illustrator may not scale as expected based on different user settings. This could mean that a thin line or stroke, when zoomed in significantly, ends up becoming a rectangle or an outlined path to ensure consistency when the logo size changes. If it is left as a stroke, it may stay thin even when the logo is scaled up, instead of changing size proportionately.
above: the image is scaled up without strokes expanded, resulting in thinner strokes and an incorrect appearance.
above: with the strokes expanded and text outlined, the image scales up more consistently. Strokes now appear correct and in proportion.
When a logo is prepared properly, it will most likely be saved in EPS format (encapsulated postscript). This is a file format commonly used for placing or embedding images in graphic design industry standard layout programs such as Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress. The native file format for Adobe Illustrator is AI, and that can also be utilized with InDesign very easily (it may need to be set as PDF compatible). Another format that can be saved from Illustrator is PDF. This retains the vector data and the file can still be opened (and possibly edited, depending on permission settings) in Illustrator, placed in InDesign, and even viewed in Acrobat (any variation). Sometimes, I prefer to send a PDF of a final logo to a client so that they can have a vector format they can see. EPS and AI formats can only be opened in certain graphics editing software and page layout software. It is uncommon for someone to be able to open them to view if they only have the software that came with their computer. Thumbnail images do not always attach correctly to these file types either, so that is not a reliable preview method.
I have noticed that Apple's Preview is able to preview EPS files (it temporarily converts to PDF first), but since Microsoft Windows is more commonly used in the business world, this is not something that I can expect clients to have access to.
There is a freeware vector graphics program that I have heard good things about called Inkscape, but I believe it cannot open EPS files either. It can open and edit a different vector format, svg (scalable vector graphics). But this is not an industry standard format, so I cannot recommend it as a high priority file type to have. It can be useful in some cases, but it is fairly uncommon.
The most commonly used formats for vector logos would have to be EPS and PDF, and these should both be able to be opened by any graphics professional or professional printing service provider. If a printing service provider cannot open a PDF at all, there is likely a problem.
Feel free to contact me with a low resolution version of your logo to receive an estimate on the time and cost it would require to vectorize your logo.
Come back tomorrow for part 4 in this series.
Next up: the conclusion – possible uses for a vector logo.
Previously in the "Why You Should Have a Vector Logo" series:
- part 1: the difference between vector and raster formats, an explanation of resolution
- part 2: the difference between rasterized and vector text