CT&D #28. Vector vs. Raster Graphics & Logos

What is the difference between vector and raster graphics? What are the major changes in logos from the past to the present?

The difference between vector graphics and raster graphics is that the former makes use of basic geometric shapes (including points, lines, and curves that make them) versus the latter which incorporates pixels (each assigned a different color) to make a whole image. To elaborate further, vector graphics are presented smoothly and maintain a sharp quality of color and resolution, a result that is made possible due to scaling. Scaling is when a shape is enlarged or minimized (or even manipulated through distortion) and usually when this is done, a figure’s properties must be proportional to its original size (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be).

However, since scaling is not limited to only vector graphics, its use in other graphic types is practiced but not advised. For example, one can scale a raster image but due to such image being made up of pixels, stretching it would cause significant loss in clarity. In other words, since a raster image is resolution-dependent, the pixels themselves are subjected to being stretched as opposed to the overall image in a vector graphic. Therefore, raster graphics should only be used in photo editing since pixels can be manipulated aesthetically (by darkening, blurring, tonal adjusting, etc.). Once a photo is exported after editing, it can then be used in a raster-based program such as InDesign.

On the subject of logos, their use have either been consistent in association with a company’s symbolic identity or have evolved as part of a company’s efforts in branding or rebranding. An example of how some logos have changed very little or none at all is BMW’s which since 1923, has gone through subtle changes. Some of the tweaks in their logo have included minimal changes in the type font (demonstrating kerning, bolding, and color updates). Apple’s own logo from its 1976 founding to its 1998 rebranding and through the present has largely remained constant: an apple with a bite on its right side with variations in color being a noticeable aesthetic change. Many other companies otherwise have made significant changes to their logos; Pepsi initially called itself Pepsi-Cola (where early logos were simply the title sans any symbols) until 1950, when the company name finally was incorporated on a bottle cap which resembles today’s familiar red top/white middle/blue bottom circle to now, where the shorter and official name, “Pepsi” and its famous symbol is all what is seen on packaging and advertising labels these days.

Overall, some of the major changes in logos from past to present mainly concern on less wording and more graphics; an increased focus on simplistic symbols (which may or may not undermine using typefaces); and lastly, a departure from old-style presentation of logos (serif fonts, black and white illustrations) to a newer and updated fashion of presenting them (san-serif fonts, bolder type and 3D-like effects).

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