We recognize that working with a designer (like us) may involve unfamiliar words. We could leave these undefined and weave a bunch of snobby mystery into our process, but that would be lame. We prefer clear conversations with real understanding. Hopefully, this can help.
A few ground rules first: Keep it simple and clear, avoid jargon, and insert humor where possible.
Adam, what is the difference between a logo, a logotype, and a wordmark?
Adam: This question is especially tricky because some of these terms are used interchangeably! Let’s start with the different components of something we know: the Apple logo. The apple image is an icon, or logomark; the word Apple is a logotype (sometimes called wordmark); and taken altogether, these bits and pieces make up the Apple logo.
But wait, there's more! Sometimes a brand uses only a logotype or wordmark, like Time Magazine. In this case, the logotype is the only element, and would also be called the logo. When in doubt, ask your designer which bit or piece they are talking about. Clarity is important, and you should have lots of it.
When a designer talks about vector and raster, what are they talking about?
Adam: Good question. When a designer talks about vector and raster, they’re talking about how an image is constructed. In simple terms, vector artwork is defined by lines and shapes (and lots of math), while raster artwork is a mosaic of pixels arranged in a grid. If you wanted to make a picture of a flower out of colored paper, you could cut out each petal and a stem and arrange them to create a flower (this is roughly how vector art works). But you could also make that flower by cutting out 1,000 tiny colored squares and arrange them into a mosaic of a flower (this is roughly how raster art works).
Designers love, love, love vector art for logos because those mathematical lines remain clean and precise even when scaled up to the size of a bus. If you zoom in on your cut paper petals, the edge remains smooth and clear, just bigger.
Raster art scales up to the size of the bus by making each tiny square (pixel) the size of a drink coaster. The edges of your flower that looked clear and smooth with tiny pixels is no longer clear and smooth at a larger scale.
In short, if a designer is handing off logo files to you, MAKE SURE they are providing vector files. You may not have the software to open the file, but any vendor you work with will likely ask for them.
Image filetypes are like alphabet soup. Which should I use?
Adam: You're right. EPS, PSD, AI, JPG, PNG, GIF, SVG, TIF. It's a mess. The answer follows directly from the previous question. That vector art that you want from your designer should come as an EPS file. Raster art is most commonly a JPG, PNG, or TIF file.
I will reiterate here that you should MAKE SURE you get a vector EPS file of your logo. If you lose all the others, this is the root, the source, the magical image file that will allow a new designer to rebuild and resupply all the others. Sadly, it doesn’t work in the reverse direction.
You may occasionally need to use a JPG, PNG, or TIF file of your logo in specific applications (for your social media profile image, for example). So, while we are hammering that vector art thing, it's important that your designer give you these other filetypes as well.
What is this mysterious clear space and where can I find some?
Adam: When I think about clear space, I think about being in an elevator. I am always more comfortable when it’s not too crowded; when I have enough personal space. If you cram 10 people in that space, things begin to get smelly and uncomfortable.
Your designer will be thinking about clear space similarly. They should define the amount of space that should always be present around your logo wherever it is shown; and make sure you know about it.
Maintaining proper clear space avoids situations where other things are crowding your logo. Not crowding the logo helps it feel clear and important. It makes it noticeable. And it helps your audience know where to look.
Related: When I place my logo in a document, it has a white box around it? WTF?
Adam: It sounds like your logo file was delivered with clearspace built in! Hooray! But I know you want to get rid of that white space. Your designer should have provided you with that magical EPS file, which usually can be placed without the background displaying. PNG files can also have transparent backgrounds (and will generally work well in Microsoft programs).
If you’re using a JPG file, you’re out of luck. You could try cleverly building a larger white area into the piece so the white box around your logo isn’t apparent. If that still doesn’t work, ask your designer.
And how about the difference between trademark and copyright?
Adam: First, a disclaimer. We at Chalkbox are NOT attorneys. We don't even play them on TV. So this is NOT legal advice. Your designer is also not a lawyer (probably). You should talk to a lawyer if you want to do this kind of thing. What we can tell you is that these are both legal tools to protect your intellectual property.
Trademark is how you protect your business name, your business logo, your business tagline, or some other important identifying element. What's the benefit of the trademark? Someone else can’t use that name or logo (or anything too similar) to identify their business, goods, or services. If you try to open a store called Amazoom Books, I guarantee you will hear from some lawyers, and you’ll suddenly find yourself eager to rename your store.
Copyright is how you protect your original works like novels, music, movies, software code, photographs, and paintings. Even brochures, annual reports, and websites. The benefit here? Someone else can’t reproduce, sell, distribute, perform, or display your work without your permission. Want to show Frozen at your local theater and sell tickets? Nope. Not without permission from Disney.
Loving this topic? Want to fact check us? Here it is from the source, the US Patent and Trademark Office: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/trademark-patent-copyright
Last question: You haven't mentioned brand or branding. Where does that stuff fit in here?
Adam: Great question. Brand and logo are often used interchangeably. But if your designer uses the word brand, they probably have a more expansive idea in mind. Brand, in the larger sense, refers to the public's collective perception of your organization. That's a fancy way of saying that your brand is what people think about your company.
Your logo, your press releases, your corporate ethics, your CEO's behavior, your product's reliability, your customer service experience, and all your marketing efforts play a part in you brand. Doing well in those areas and others can elevate and improve the public's collective perception of your organization.
And if you do enough of those things poorly, they can absolutely tank your brand.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions about design, whether around logos or otherwise, we'd love to help you figure out what's next, even if that's not us. Please reach out anytime.