A designers guide to creating logo files

So you’ve designed a logo and your clients agreed the design too. Excellent! Now we save and send the file and we’re done? Not quite…

If you want to do a professional job, there’s a little more work you need to do.

The logo design will be used in different situations. Be it large or small, black or white, print or web. Whatever the situation, as a professional designer you will want to do all you can to ensure it looks good in every one of them.

You will need to send a number of different files, each intended for a different purpose, so it’s important to know what files you’re sending and why.

There are two main categories of logo design files: Vector and Raster.

 

Vector Files

A vector file can be scaled to any size without any loss of quality. This is because it’s built up from mathematically precise points. You can see how a vector shape is built up in this image below, from Design Tuts tutorial; Hand Lettering: How to Vector Your Letterforms (a useful tutorial if you’re new to vector illustration).

 

Vector Circle Illustration

 

Vector files are the type your client will require to get anything professionally printed, or if they need design work carried out by another designer, for example; brochures, leaflets, exhibition stands, vehicle printing, pens etc.

As vector files are intended for print use they are provided in CMYK colour mode. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, which are the 4 colours used to make up the colours on a full colour printed page. There’s also special inks that can be used in some instances, such as Pantone, which we’ll discuss later in this post.

If you could give only one file type, it would be a vector file, as it can be converted to any other file type with the correct software.

Vector file types have a file extension of .ai .eps or .pdf.

 

Logo File Ai - Adobe IllustratorAi: Adobe Illustrator

The AI file is the original, editable, working file.

 

 

 

 

Logo File - PDFPDF: Portable Document Format

PDF format is becoming widely favoured by most designers as it can be universally viewed on any computer with Adobe Acrobat (or another PDF viewer). It’s also possible to preserve illustrator-editing capabilities when saving in this format, meaning it can be opened and modified in the same way a AI file can.

 

 

Logo file: EPSEPS: Encapsulated PostScript

EPS file types are now a little outdated. Before Adobe introduced its page layout software InDesign the industry standard software of its type was QuarkXPress. Back then if you wanted to use a vector image in your document, you couldn’t import native Illustrator files as you can now, instead you had to save your AI file as an EPS. With its release of InDesign, Adobe made it easy to place native Illustrator and Photoshop files into a document. Occasionally EPS files may be requested by print companies who are using older technology, so I still provide this file format.

 

Colour variants

When providing vector logo files, it’s also important to provide various colour formats, which I have detailed below:

 

Full Colour (CMYK)

This is the file for standard 4 colour printing. If you provide only one of these variants, ensure it’s this version.

 

Pantone Colour

Pantone is a universally understood colour coding system that’s used by designers and print companies. The problem with CMYK printing is that from print run to print run, there will be slight colour differences. This is because 4 separate inks are being used to build up the colour. With pantone however, a single ink is used, meaning the colours will match exactly in all instances.

 

Single Colour (Black & White)

In some instances, a single colour version of the logo will be needed. For example, this might be for frosted vinyl’s for glass or single colour documents. You can read more about the uses and need for a black and white version of a logo in my blog post; Does a logo need to work in black and white?

 

White

A white version of the logo is to be used on coloured backgrounds, or on dark images where good contrast is needed. With white logos, sadly it’s not simply a case of changing the colour and saving the file. There’s a little more that needs to be done.

 

Logo with Irradiation Phenomenon fixed

 

As you can see from the image above, when a black on white object is reversed we experience what’s known as irradiation phenomenon, whereby the white version looks 10% larger. To counteract this illusion, it’s important to slightly reduce the overall weight of the logo.

 

Raster Files

Raster files are built up of small squares called pixels. This means that as you increase the size of your image, it will become blocky, or appear to be blurred. This is why a logo design should be created in vector format for the best results.

 

Logo - Raster File Zoom Image

 

Raster files are intended for computer use, so are provided in RGB colour mode. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, which are the colours used to make up all the colours you see on your screen. Black is the absence of light.

Raster file types have a file extension of .Jpeg or .PNG (there are other raster based image types, such as Gif, BMP and TIFF, but for logo design these two alone should be sufficient)

 

Logo File: JpgJPG/JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group

Jpeg’s are most commonly seen online. This is because jpeg offers very good compression without overly degrading the image, meaning the image is very small in file size, so will load quickly.

 

 

Logo File: PNGPNG: Portable Network Graphics

PNG images are lossless, which mean they do not lose quality during editing. Most importantly however they allow for transparency.

 

 

 

Logo Lockups

Like it or not, your logo will be used in a lot of different locations. Each location will have a different size and shape, which will cause visibility and recognition issues if the logo doesn’t fit well.

To prevent your design looking bad, if the design allows it, I highly recommend providing your logo design in different lockups. A lockup is simply a different layout configuration.

For example, if your logo is made up of both typography and an icon, you might have 2 layout variants such as; a long/thin version with the icon to the left of the text, and another with the icon above the text. Here’s an example from my recent logo design for People Code.

 

People Code Recruitment Logo Design

 

If your logo includes an icon, it can also be used on its own.

The icon should only ever be used on its own sparingly however, in instances where your audience is already familiar with the company name (For example: within a company’s office exterior, or a website favicon). Companies like Nike, Starbucks and McDonalds have been able to remove the wordmark from their logo because of the continued marketing they expose to the world, along with their role in popular culture.

 

Small sized variants (optional)

If the new logo is going to be used at small sizes, its important to consider looking at designing variants of the design for this purpose, which include less detail. You can see this in the example below, extracted from Argento Wines brand guidelines.

 

Argento Wine Responsive Logo

 

This has recently become a popular topic due to responsive web design, where smaller devices are becoming common place, however the same principles apply to print too. These blogs are well worth a read on the topic: Responsive Logos, Part 1 and Part 2

 

Logo Design Files: Quick Reference

Here’s an overview of the files I send:

Vector (ai, PDF and EPS)

  • A CMYK version
  • A Pantone colour version
  • A black, single Colour version
  • A White version

Raster Files (in RGB)

  • Jpeg
  • PNG

Logo Variants (optional)

  • Lock-up variants
  • Smaller size variants

 

Although you can’t always control how a client will use the logo, by providing the design in the formats detailed above, along with a supporting usage document, you have done all you can to ensure the design is presented its best.

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Learn Logo Design with Skillshare
Creative resources from DesignCuts