Vectors and Bitmaps… Oh My!

Often when clients are providing us their materials for a project, the question of graphic quality and type becomes an important issue.

There’s often a good deal of confusion about what certain types of graphics are, and how they can be best utilized for professional quality collateral for printing and even web design.  Unless you have work in pre-press, or with printing often, you may need a good understanding of the advantages (and disadvantages) of specific graphic/data types.

Here’s a very basic review that might help:

  • As a general rule, most digital pictures (and scanned images) are bitmap file types. These may also called “raster” images.
  • Graphics designed or composed in applications like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw are often saved as “vector graphics”.

From a technical perspective, both formats are entirely different, with the end result looking nearly identical in either format.

In very general terms, bitmaps are often used to depict life-like images, while vector graphics are more frequently used to depict abstract images (such as logos).  There are many exceptions to this generality, and you may not be able to tell the difference between two image types simply by looking at them.

“Vexel art”, for example, are bitmap images that have been manipulated to appear as though they are vector data.  This can be used to create photo-realistic images that have an artificially sharpened appearance to them.

While you can easily convert a bitmap image into a vector file, you may conversely change a vector image into a bitmap.  And to add even more confusion, there are file formats that combine both types into a single file.

So how can you navigate all this technical jargon?  It’s fairly simple once you understand the basics:

Bitmap images

Bitmap images are exactly what their name implicates – a collection of bits that form an image. The image is a matrix of individual dots (or pixels) that all have their own color (described using “bits” – the smallest possible units of information for a computer).

As you can see in this example, the image consists of hundreds of rows and columns of small elements that each has its own color.  These are called a “pixels” – shorthand for picture element. The human eye is simply not capable of seeing each individual pixel, and so we perceive a picture with smooth gradations.

How many pixels do you need to see the image as a whole picture?  That depends on the way the image will be used.  The example of the mountain above with the insert enlargement shows one of the main disadvantages of bitmap images – once they are enlarged beyond their original size, they become “blocky” – and if they are reduced in size, they will also lose a bit of their sharpness.

There are literally hundreds of applications available that can be used to create/modify bitmap data. The industry leader is  Adobe Photoshop, although less expensive alternatives like Corel Photo-Paint shouldn’t be disregarded for their abilities

Bitmap data can be saved in a wide variety of file formats. Among these are:

  • BMP: an outdated and limited file format that is not suitable for use in prepress.
  • EPS: a flexible file format that can contain both bitmap and vector data. It is gradually being replaced by PDF.
  • GIF: mainly used for internet graphics
  • JPEG: or rather the JFIF file format, which is mainly used for internet graphics
  • PDF: versatile file format that can contain just about any type of data including complete pages,it is not yet widely used to exchange just images
  • PICT: file format that can contain both bitmap and vector data but that is mainly used on Macintosh computers and is not very suitable for prepress.
  • PSD: the native file format of Adobe Photoshop (which can also contain vector data such as clipping paths)
  • TIFF: a popular and versatile bitmap file format

Vector graphics

Vector graphics are images that are completely designed and composed of mathematical definitions. The cheesy image below illustrates the principle simply.

As you can see, each individual line is composed of either a collection of points with lines connecting them,  or just a few control points that are connected called “bezier curves”.

This drawing demonstrates the two principles. To the left a circle is formed by connecting a number of points using straight lines. To the right, you see the same circle that is now drawn using 4 points  only.

Vector drawings are typicall small in data size as they contain data about the bezier curves that form the drawing.  Vector drawings can typically be scaled without any loss in quality.  This is why they’re ideal for company logos or designs that need to be resized frequently.

Like bitmap programs, there  are hundreds of applications on the market that can be used to create or modify vector data. Adobe Illustrator is again, the industry

Bitmap data can be saved in a wide variety of file formats. Among these are:

  • EPS: the most popular file format to exchange vector drawings although EPS-files can also contain bitmap data.
  • PDF: versatile file format that can contain just about any type of data including complete pages, not typically used to exchange just images
  • PICT: outdated file format that can contain both bitmap and vector data but that was mainly used on Macintosh computers before OS X came along.

Hopefully, this will give you some insight as to what type of file to provide your design professional, or better yet, an understanding of what type of file you need to have them create for you.

And of course, if you have any questions or experiences about this often confusing topic of file types and uses, we’d like to hear them!

Is Woolworths’ Logo Too Similar To Apple’s?

Apple to Woolworths_ Your New Logo Is Too Apple-y

Most of us already know that Apple is famous for it’s aggressive defense of its brand image (or logo).  If they were willing to sue the Victoria School of Business and Technology for infringement, then certainly Austrailia’s Woolworths could have expected the same.  One key may be that Woolworth’s trademark is blanketed to extend to its entire range of products, including technology and electrical items.

Locally, Woolworths used to be a combination drug/convenience store, with a small counter style restaurant inside.  They served up some of the best milk shakes around, and a wicked ice cream sundae.  Today, the company sells a wide variety of products, including electronics.

A Woolworths spokesman put it this way: ”While we can’t rule anything out, we haven’t got any plans (when it comes to computers and gadgetry) at the moment.”

Looking at the example above, is their logo a stylized apple?  Woolworths say’s “no”.  It’s simply a stylized “W” with an “abstract leaf symbol”.  Some have gone as far to suggest that it’s a stylized consumer with outstretched arms, or even an apple being peeled.

I think you’ve got to admit to the similarities between the two logos, and in fact, Woolworths may be the seller of products that are similar to those of Apple’s.

But what do you think? Are the two logos too similar? Is Apple stepping over its bounds, and being too legally aggressive in protecting its brand image?

We’re interested to learn what you think – so please weigh in and comment.

Pepsi’s 5 Month Logo Revision

Pepsi Brand Image History

Pepsi Brand Image History

Remaking an icon take approximately 5 months in Pepsi terms.  Not a long time in my opinion for a major international brand that’s been in existence since 1898 which started out as “Brad’s Drink”.

I’m VERY interested to see which of the above you relate to.  I have a theory about which of these 6 brand image iterations resonate – and with whom.  So please, let me know if you prefer one over the other, and I’ll gladly combine and report the results.

According to Frank Cooper, Pepsi’s VP-portfolio brands: “We felt like, as we move out of this traditional mass marketing and mass distribution era into today’s culture, there’s an opportunity to bring humanity back, both in terms of the design but also in the way we engage consumers,” he said. “By making the logo more dynamic and more alive … [it is] absolutely a huge step in the right direction.”

Pepsi has not disclosed what the revamp has cost, however some have estimated the figure to be in excess of $1 million. A logo redesign is, as you can imagine, just the beginning. Consider the expense in removing the old logo version as it appears while creating and distributing a wide variety of new collateral.

Omnicom’s Arnell Group already had a working relationship with Pepsi, having spearheaded a majority of the company’s packaging design.

So which of these logos (including the new one) really resonate with you?  And what do you think of the new one?

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