I’ve designed a ton of logos in the last 20 years and to this day they are still absolutely the hardest thing I do. It never gets any easier. Logo design is kind of like art. What you like is not what someone else is going to like. It’s up to the designer to figure it all out and have an end product that the client is super happy with and more importantly resonates with their clients.
Logo design is complex and begins even before pen meets paper. It’s super important as a business owner especially those of you who have to DIY your branding and marketing that you understand a little technology and a little about graphic and web design.
Hint: You don’t just need one logo.
Let’s learn a little bit about logos:
Understanding color RGB vs. CMYK
Web design uses color as RGB (red, green, blue) and print design uses color as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black.) Basically, monitors emit light and papers absorb light. CMYK in printing is referred to as four-color. Most logos are designed in four-color so you’ll see logos named LisaDunnDesign 4/c logo for instance.
Understanding the difference between low resolution and high resolution
Computer monitors show color as red, green and blue light RGB at a low-medium resolution usually 72-75 dots per inch (dpi). Print production usually requires the four-color process CMYK in high resolution of at least 300 dpi.
Printing vs. Web
So just to be clear you’ll need a high-resolution logo in CMYK at 300 dpi to print business cards, brochures, labels etc. and for the web you’ll need a low-resolution RGB logo at 72 dpi for anything you do online like your website, social media etc.
The word file types can be confusing but to clarify file types or file formats are the way in which your logo or any other graphic has been saved. You can determine the file format by looking at the file extension which is like YourLogo.jpg. In this instance the file format is a jpg. Pro tip: If any vendor ever asks you for a specific format, they’re looking for a type of file, and its format is usually indicated by a file extension.
Most common type of file extensions
The most common extensions you’ll run into will look like these: .PDF, .EPS, .PNG, .JPG and .GIF. There are a few exceptions to the three letter extension rule and you may receive files with just two, .AI and .PS being the most common. All these extensions not only tell you what kind of file it is, but they also allow your computer to figure out (as best it can) what software is needed to open the file if you double-click on its icon. Quick Tip: Changing the extension in a file name by typing in another will NOT change the file format OF the file. You should never do this anyway
Vector and Pixel based images
The logo artwork that is in your files can be one of two image types. One is known as vector based, the other bitmap, pixel based or raster.
Vector based logo files are usually end in .eps or .ai and these are usually logos and illustrations. Vector images can be reduced in size and enlarged. They are primarily files for printing and to create other formats from. They also can be edited by your designer without too much trouble. You can make bitmap or pixel images from a vector file, but usually not vice versa.
Vector based files usually require professional design software to open and are always the best quality. You can stretch these files as big as a billboard without losing resolution. So when I ask for my client’s logo I ask for vector which can end with either an .eps or .ai extension. This ensures that your printed pieces will always look professional.
Raster images end in .jpg or .png and can only be used sized as is or reduced — you cannot enlarge them without losing quality. They are primarily files for viewing on electronic screens like monitors and TVs. Difficult to edit, if it’s even possible at all. Raster images are usually used for photography but logos for online use will need to be saved as .jpg or .png.
So when my client sends me a .jpg for a brochure I’m designing I know that they do not understand that I need the highest quality version of their logo which is always an .eps or .ai.
When to use a .png and when to use a .jpg
When I don’t have the vector version of a logo then the next best solution is to use the .png. Why? Because a .png is saved on a transparent background so when I’m designing the logo on top of a photograph or a colored background it doesn’t have a white box around it. From here on out you’ll know which businesses understand logo file formats when you look at a fundraiser’s poster and see a few logos with white boxes around them. Bingo. They don’t understand logos and they've probably given the designer a .jpg.
Primary logo in different formats
Do you want to understand why logos are expensive? Here’s one reason. You need a primary logo that works in different ways for different uses. I usually design a horizontal version and a vertical version. Perhaps your logo is horizontal but you want to put it in a circle. Unless you want your logo to look like a line, you’ll need a vertical logo so it will fit within those dimensions.
Browser Icon logo for your website
A favicon, or browser icon, is a small square image that displays next to a page's title in browser tabs and in other places across the web. Adding a custom favicon makes your site recognizable in a browser full of tabs or bookmarks. You’ll need your icon or some configuration of your logo saved at 100px x 100px or 300px or 300px. Here’s where learning how to design like in a program like Canva can be beneficial. You’ll just create a custom size and design it yourself using pixels instead of inches.
More and more brands are designing more than one logo. I think it’s actually fun to have several versions of your logo. See Hey Coach Jamie’s logos. They are so cute.
Save each version of your logo in different formats
Save each version of your logo as low-resolution RGB ( .png and .jpg) for the web
Save each version of your logo as a high-resolution CMYK (.png and .jpg) for print and if you're working with a designer always give them either the .ai or .eps version.
By now you’ll have a gazillion logos but you’ll have everything you need to brand and market your business.
Invest in your logo design
For the best results, working with a professional designer will give you ultimately the highest quality designs. Having your logo designed in professional software is probably the most important investment you can make. When my clients don’t have a style guide (which every brand should have. More on this later) I can take that .ai or .eps version and open it up in Adobe Illustrator and be able to know exactly what your colors are and sometimes I can even tell what your fonts are. REMEMBER: My clients get tripped up on file extensions ending in .eps or .ai because they can’t open them because they will only open in software like Adobe Illustrator. I will save logos in .pdf so my clients can easily see them in Acrobat. Never design your logo in Photoshop either. Photoshop is not software to design vector (line art) artwork.
DIYing your logo
DIYing your logo can be tricky and what I’ve discovered in this process is that there are logo creators that will save your artwork as a vector but you won’t have your logo in all the formats you need. You can also use paid services as well like Fiverr or 99designs but again, you kind of get what you pay for.