When a branding project wraps up, the designer usually turns over a set of logo files. It can be overwhelming knowing which format to use in particular situations. These brief guidelines should help clarify the differences to help avoid the dreaded “pixelated” logo problem.

Vector files

A logo created in professional design software like Adobe Illustrator works with vectors. They’re built using mathematical points and don’t have an assigned resolution. For that reason, they don’t lose quality when scaled up in size. They’re also the most preferred format for release to another designer, publisher, printer or vendor. Particularly when you’re printing your logo, you’ll want to use the vector file. It will look clean whether printed on a brochure or scaled up to an oversized banner.

Formats: AI (Adobe Illustrator), EPS, PDF (as long as it was created in a vector program) or SVG (gaining popularity as a vector-based web format).

Rasterized files

Any files that are rasterized have a set resolution, much like a photo file. When an image is increased in size, the quality can suffer. This is often the case when a logo appears pixelated. However, if you start with a high resolution image and don’t scale it larger than the original size, the quality should be fine.
There are a variey of popular formats, but each have different characteristics.

Perhaps the most popular format is JPEG (.jpg). It’s a fairly universal format and has a compact file size. However, it does not support transparency. This means if the logo is placed on a color background, it will appear with an opaque white box behind the logo that extends to the full size of the image.

For web or presentation purposes, there are several formats which can appear transparent (if they are prepared appropriately): GIF, PNG, or TIFF.

The bottom line… if you’re sending logo files for a print job, vector is always preferable. For the web, there are several acceptable rasterized formats, but be careful not to enlarge the logo above its original size.