During our team’s day to day life, we’re constantly sending files back and forth. We interface with clients, designers, web developers, and writers to get our work done, often on very tight schedules and sometimes with thorny public relations and strategy goals hanging in the balance.
Inevitably, we encounter situations in which a client sends us a file for use and it doesn’t open properly, display correctly, or it isn’t in the right file format. While this seems like a minor inconvenience to most, the reality is that content production and delivery can be directly impacted by having improperly formatted files. That got us thinking: it’s time to talk about file types.
This is part of a two-part series on file types. Stay tuned for a blog post about written content files types later this week!
There are two major categories for graphics: raster and vector.
Raster graphics are made up of a grid of pixels (the “bitmap”) with a certain predefined density (DPI = Dots Per Inch or PPI = Pixels Per Inch.) That is why you will often hear someone ask for a file size in terms of the pixel dimensions. Consider these graphics like a refined light-brite screen: each peg being a unique dot of color, and when all the dots come together the big picture is shown.
Vector graphics are not made up of pixels (dots) like their raster counterparts. Rather, they are made from paths. Since they are not dots, they are able to scale without negatively impacting the quality of the graphic. The most common file types for vector graphics are .AI .EPS .SVG and .PDF.
Now, let’s explore some specific raster and vector formats, you likely have encountered.
Chances are, this is the format your camera or phone saves pictures in. If you download an image off the internet, it’s also likely a .JPG
A .JPG is a great format to share quick images and proofs for production, and is one type of raster graphic. However, because it’s a raster format, it’s “lossy”. Each time you save a .JPG, the file losses a little bit of data due to a compression algorithm. If you do this a few times, you start to notice that the quality goes down.
A .JPG file is great for websites and digital media–where large file sizes lead to slower speeds. Send a .JPG if you’re just sharing an everyday image, but consider another file type for your other graphic needs.
A .PNG is another format for displaying images, like a .JPG. Unlike a .JPG, though, it’s loss-less because it operates with a different compression algorithm than .JPG files.
.PNG is used to display web graphics. It also supports transparency–something that .JPG can’t do–which makes it an obvious choice for a lot of graphics needs. For example, a .PNG of your logo would have a transparent background, allowing you to overlay your logo on an image without a weird white box (which would ruin the design!)
Use a .PNG for web graphics. You don’t need to use this if you’re just sharing email attachments.
.EPS and .AI
These are the most complicated. If you’ve been the non-technical person working on a graphics project, you’ve probably run into these file types. You also probably couldn’t open them because they require graphics programs like Adobe Illustrator.
Vector graphics are amazing because they scale. Other file types are made up of small dots of color (pixels) and when enlarged they become fuzzy (“pixelated.”) Vector graphics, in contrast, are not made from pixels but rather from paths. This is important when you’re designing a logo that you might want to display on a business card and a billboard. If your logo was in a .JPG format, you would not be able to use it on both a business card and a billboard. However, if your logo file is in an .EPS format, you can, as it will scale. .EPS is the Adobe standard for a vector graphic. From time to time you may also hear talk of .SVG formats. This format is a non-proprietary, open source, vector file format.
One of our key recommendations for each client is to have a library of logo images that are in all formats–ready to go at a moment’s notice. Each marketing effort could potentially require a different file format and being prepared means better efficiencies and quicker delivery.
We hope this information on visual content is helpful to you. While it can be a little technical, it’s also very important to understand. If everyone involved in your organization, from project managers, to designers, and finally the client, understands more about these technical details, the smoother the creative process becomes.
If you’re confused about any of this or would like to know more about what we do to streamline production of our creative content, please get in touch!