Supplying files to designers … what do we need?
I’ve spent the best part (or maybe the worst!) of 23 years recommending how clients should supply logos and images for use in design work. 23 years later, I still find myself trying to clarify how to supply files properly, so thought I’d put things down in writing …
From a designer’s point of view, I’d ideally like logos and images supplied at the very best quality to start with (even if I’m only due to be using them on a website). This is because I can save out exactly the right quality file for the job in hand. Secondly, it saves any extra scrabbling around when I find I need to use the same logo or image for a five metre wide exhibition stand in the future (without having to disturb you again).
So what file types are best for graphic designers to work from?
Your company logo
A vector format is the ideal format to supply your logo. This means it’s been created in a vector drawing package such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. This format means that it can be increased in scale without any loss of quality – it will always look crisp and sharp. You can use the same logo file for a business card or to blow up to use on the side of a bus. Typical vector file types are .eps or .ai files.
Files supplied as a jpeg or png will be pixel files, rather than vector. Their quality degrades the more they are increased in scale. They may also be low resolution from a website and no good for print unless they are supplied in a very large scale at 300dpi (72 dpi is web resolution).
Very large 300dpi pixel files may also be large in file size, whereas vector files are generally quite small … easily emailable for example.
Photographic imagery can only be supplied in a pixel format, so here it comes down to resolution, dpi, or ‘dots per inch’. To be used for print in brochures, leaflets etc, the resolution of images needs to be at 300dpi. It’s also worth bearing in mind that even at this resolution, images can only be scaled up by around 125% before loss of quality. The best thing is to supply at as large a physical size as possible, but also at 300dpi, so the image hopefully won’t have to be scaled.
Sometimes, image from stock libraries or from photographers and digital cameras are 72dpi. However, they’ll often be at a large physical size (2 metres wide for example), so that when they’re made 300dpi, through resampling, they’ll still be large enough (50 cm wide for example).
If you’re doing your own image-searching, for images to use directly in a piece of design work, please don’t look on Google images, or generally grab images off the internet. They won’t be of a decent enough quality (resolution-wise), but primarily you won’t have the required copyright for their use.
Images from official royalty free image sites such as iStock and Shutterstock come with the correct licensing when you purchase them. There are also many high quality free stock image sites around nowadays, such as Unsplash and Pexels. Whilst the images are free, they also state that they are ‘free for Commercial use’ – a phrase you should check for on other free images sites before you use them.
Editorial versus Creative use
Also on the subject of image copyright, if you happen to be searching stock libraries for images yourself, make sure you only search for what are often called ‘creative images’. Most websites have clickable filters where you can search for ‘Creative’, ‘Editorial’, or both. Editorial images can only be used in press publications such as magazines and newspapers and are normally of real-life news events and famous people. You shouldn’t use these for your marketing communications as they don’t have the appropriate model or property releases.
Written copy content
It’s best if written copy content is supplied either in a Word or Google document. This way, I can save it with the other files for the job. Copy sent in the body of an email can easily be mislaid … although I do tend to copy and paste it into a Word document and save out (but not all designers may be as conscientious!)
Feedback and amends
Of course, I’m always happy to chat through more complicated design feedback. But in the case of small amends, tweaks to copy etc, the easiest way for you and me is to mark them up on the pdf using the ‘Sticky Notes’ tool in Adobe Acrobat. Failing that, you can always print the designs out, write the amends on, scan them in and email them back (believe me, this is a favoured way of many clients!)
Files that I send you
A fairly simple one hopefully, but if I send you important final design files, such as sets of logos, icons and finished documents, please file them somewhere safe at your end. It also makes sense, in a larger business to file them somewhere centrally where everyone has access to them. *Slight rant alert* – I've lost count of the number of times clients have asked me to resend files that I've already sent them. There are many great free file storage options now such as DropBox and Google Drive where you can easily save files and share the location with your team.