CT&D #28. Vector vs. Raster Graphics

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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 (i.e. points, lines, curves) 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 which is made possible due to scaling. Scaling is when a shape is enlarged or minimized (or even manipulated/distorted) and usually when this is done, a figure’s properties must be proportional to its original size.

However, since scaling is not limited to only vector graphics, its use in other types is practiced but not advised. For example, one can scale a raster image but due to such image being composed 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 unlike the overall image in a vector graphic. Therefore, raster graphics should only be used in photo editing since the pixels can be manipulated aesthetically (darkening, blurring, tonal fixing).

On the subject of logos, its use has either been consistent within a company’s symbolic identity or has 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 which since 1923, has gone under subtle changes. Some of the tweaks in their logo have included the type font (kerning, bolding, coloring). Apple’s own logo from 1976, 1998 and now is simply an apple with a bite on its side but only its color has changed. Many other companies, otherwise, have made significant changes to their logos; Pepsi initially called itself Pepsi-Cola (where the early logos were simply the title sans any symbols) until 1950, where 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 name, “Pepsi” and its famous symbol is all what is seen on packaging and advertising labels.

Overall, some of the major changes in logos from past to present mainly concern on less wording, more graphics; an increased focus on simplistic symbols (which may or may not undermine using type fonts); 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 effect for the logo itself).

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