Protecting the Brand You’ve Worked So Hard to Create
It’s a common scenario: you spend countless hours working with an agency or graphic artist to create the perfect logo to represent your brand, only to find once it enters the four walls of your organization, its degradation begins. In an ideal world, the graphics police would filter each and every page that comes out of your multifunctional device to ensure that your mark is always reproduced as it was originally intended, right down to the proper CMYK simulation of your precious Pantone. Since that is not the reality, we’ve compiled a few tips to help your logo look its best.
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#1 – Have your agency or graphic artist export high resolution versions of your vector image in a variety of file formats including EPS, JPEG, PDF, and PNG.
In most cases, logos originate as vector images, a combination of points, curves, and lines, which make up the shapes that are in your logo. When resized, theses points automatically scale to reproduce the exact same image quality from its inception. Since not all applications play nice with original vector artwork such as an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or encapsulated postscript (.EPS) files, vectors can be “exported” as a variety of raster files, such as JPEG, PNG, and TIFF. Think of raster files as vectors that are frozen at a specific size and resolution. A good rule of thumb is to ask for a high resolution version (at least 300 dots per inch (DPI)) to start and you can always downsize once you are in your application. It’s better to reduce a high quality image than to enlarge a low quality version. If you do the latter, pixilation may occur.
#2 – However you create your documents, keep in mind that every application has its fastball.
Microsoft Word is great for creating documents with text-heavy content, in addition to “business graphics” comprising of mostly charts and line art. In Word, images are often compressed when they are placed because they reside within the actual document, resulting in poor image quality when printed. If you find that your Word files have more than just a few high resolution images in them, it might be time to consider an upgrade to a higher end page layout program that is built to manage images more efficiently.
Products like Publisher and Adobe InDesign are considered higher end applications for more detailed images and advanced typesetting techniques. They also have the ability to link your images to your file so that they are not actually living within the document. It is only when that document is printed that the images’ resources are married to the final layout.
Along the same vein, PowerPoint, which is primarily used for on-screen presentations, is often used like a word processing application for final printed output, because it allows users to work one page at a time without text jumping from page to page when you make changes. Regardless, resist the urge to use it as a printed page layout application. Since it was designed primarily for optimized on-screen viewing, keep it that way. If you must use it, be sure to change your printing options for the best quality and only place high quality images. Another great trick in PowerPoint is to use PNG files exclusively. The added benefit of a PNG file is that, unlike a JPEG, white areas surrounding your logo are transparent. This is particularly useful in creating a more professional look in your presentations.
#3 – If you have an advanced print controller, use an overlay process such as Fiery’s FreeForm.
If the primary image within your Word file is just your logo and you are still not achieving the desired quality, consider placing an encapsulated postscript (.EPS) version instead of the typical JPEG. Microsoft has long been providing filters that enable its products to interpret these types of vector files so that a higher image quality can be achieved. If you’re still not satisfied, and you happen to have an enhanced print controller on your multifunctional device such as an embedded or external Fiery RIP (raster image processor), take advantage of its free overlay option, FreeForm, for image optimization. With FreeForm, you create “masters” or overlays with all of your graphic intensive components that reside on the processor side, until they are married with your content upon printing. Not only will this process eliminate the need for your application to process your images, which will likely result in less than desired results, but it will also significantly speed up the time it takes to print your job.
Whatever your workflow, all three of the aforementioned applications handle images differently, and depending on the kind of printer you have, may produce drastically different results of the same exact layout. If you’re dissatisfied with what you are currently getting from your printer, go back to the source—the application. Chances are, simple adjustments to your applications default settings and options can make a huge difference on how your document is reproduced. When in doubt, test, test, test. What works for one organization may not necessarily be the right solution for another because of all of the variables in play.