When I hand over the final logo files at the end of a project, I label them according to the use they’re intended for. Usually it’s appended in all-caps to the file name, so there’s no mistaking which one a client should use for a particular need. I haven’t always done this, though, and I’m sure there are a lot of designers out there who don’t. So how do you know a) which file formats you SHOULD be receiving from your logo designer and b) what you’re supposed to use the different file formats for? I hope to shed some light on that in this post.

Vector

This is probably the most important file your logo designer will provide. A vector design is based on mathematical formulas and relationships between points and lines, rather than in raster format where it’s based on fixed color information stored in pixels. This means that a logo designed in a vector format can be scaled up or shrunk down to ANY size without loss of quality, or distortion, or pixelation. This feature makes your vector logo file the most useful over the life of your business. No matter what kind of project needs your business’ logo included, if you have the vector format of it, you’ll be set- whether you need to slap it on the side of a blimp, or fit it on the side of a pencil. Even if you don’t use the file directly yourself, it will be the one you provide to future designers and collaborators to use.

This will likely come in .ai (Adobe Illustrator) or .svg. These are both strictly vector formats, so you know when you see those file extensions that vector is what you’re getting.

A logo could also be provided in vector .pdf or .eps, but with those file types whether it’s vector or raster depends on what program was used to create it and how it was saved. For .pdfs, if you zoom in to 800% or more, check whether things still appear crisp and smooth (vector) or whether it’s gotten blurry and pixelated (raster).

Print

Print-ready logo files are those that are meant for high-quality reproduction in a printed format. Generally a professional designer will prefer the vector file to work with, but depending on the designer and the project, a print-ready file could be an alternate choice. Also, as a business owner, there are sure to be times where you’re handling smaller jobs yourself. If you ever use a printer’s online builder tool to set up business cards or the holiday greeting card, and you want to add your logo, this file type is the one to use. It should already be 300dpi or higher (the minimum bar for high resolution) and in CMYK (ink-based) color format.

This will come in either .tif format (which has the advantage of allowing a transparent background behind your logo) or .jpg format (your logo will have a solid color background, generally white or black). There is some leeway here, as .jpgs can also be used for web images; you’ll want to check that the .jpg you’re being sent has a significant file size on your hard drive. If it’s above 500KB, chances are it’s high resolution and intended for print.

Web

Probably the logo file you’ll personally use the most is the web-ready one. This is the one you’ll stick on your website, the social media profiles for your business, etc. It should be web resolution (72dpi) and set to RGB (light-based for monitors) color mode. It’s generally a smaller file, both in dimensions and in hard drive size. This makes it quick to load when called up on a web page.

The standard these days is for web logos to be in .png format. This format retains quality better than .jpg and .gif (the other two formats that you might use for web) and allows for a transparent background behind your logo, in case it needs to layer over something else.

Unrecommended Formats

The following are the file formats you should watch out for, as they are not ideal for logos:

  1. .psd (Photoshop) – This is the mark of a designer who doesn’t really know what they are doing, as your original logo should be in a vector file format, as explained above.
  2. .bmp (bitmap) – This is an outdated file type that isn’t really in use much anymore.
  3. .gif – Yes, this is still a format widely used on the web, but due to quality loss and pixelation issues it’s not one I recommend for businesses or logos. (animated, non-logo-related .gifs shared on social media are another matter)
  4. Any Microsoft Office program – Word, Powerpoint and Publisher are NOT design programs, and not suitable for developing logos. If you are being provided your (supposedly) professionally-designed logo in these formats, get your money back. Use your print-ready logo file to add your logo into a Microsoft program for a project if you need it; it shouldn’t start out there.

To me, a good logo designer will provide not only the original logo file, but also more user-friendly, ready-to-use files for print and web. However, if your logo designer only provides one file, make sure it’s the vector format. If you have that, you can create all of the other file types easily. Be sure to check your contract to see exactly what deliverables your designer has agreed to hand over.

Did this help clear up what to do with your logo files and how to use them?