The three little letters after a file name can be a source of great confusion to the uninitiated. As an Account Manager you’ll be required to request and deliver many different types of files for different purposes; and, in the self-interest of sounding intelligent, you’ll want to know you are using the right lingo at the right time.
A “filename extension”, or “suffix”, is the “dot xxx” extension after a file’s name. It indicates the “encoding” (file format) of the file, plus it gives you the biggest clue as to the file’s intended use. Examples of filename extensions are .jpg, .png, and .gif.
A full list of industry filename extensions can run into the hundreds - literally. Don’t worry, the number of extensions that an Account Manager needs to be familiar with is considerably smaller!
The first thing you’ll need to understand is that there are two main file types for image files: “bitmap” and “vector”. Once you understand these two concepts, you’ll be able to better grasp why we have so many different file types and how you can apply them.
“Bitmap” images (also known as “raster” images) are exactly what their name suggests: a collection of “bits” that form an image. A “bit” is the smallest possible unit of information for a computer. Bitmap images are made up of pixels in a grid (when you see them on-screen), which are then reproduced as dots (when you view a printed page with a magnifying glass).
Bitmap images are resolution dependent. “Resolution” refers to the number of pixels in an image and is usually stated as dpi (dots per inch - print terminology), or ppi (pixels per inch - digital terminology). It refers to the number of dots/pixels that will fit into one inch of printed page or screen. The more dots/pixels in that inch, the clearer, crisper and better quality the image becomes.
Standard computer displays will show images comfortably at 70 to 100 pixels per inch, which is why the image resolution of photos for web has been 72 dpi until fairly recently. With the introduction of “Retina” displays (from Apple), the resolution of images needs to be higher at 220 ppi+.
In order for a bitmap image to render well in print, the resolution needs to be around 300 dpi/ppi. If you print an image that has been saved at 72 dpi it will appear “pixelated” or blurry. There are not enough dots per inch in a 72 dpi/ppi image to see the image clearly enough on the printed page.
Types of bitmap images:
Key points to note:
Common bitmap formats include: JPG/JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG, PCX, TIF/TIFF, PSD
“Vector” images are made up of objects, rather than pixels or dots. Each of these objects can be defined by mathematical statements and have properties assigned to them (such as fill, colour, outline).
Vector graphics are resolution-independent because they can be output to the highest quality at any size or scale. You can take a tiny vector graphic and enlarge it to billboard size without losing quality.
Vector format is the preferred file format for creating logos, maps and other graphic images that have to be re-sized frequently.
Key points to note:
Common vector formats include: AI, EPS
PDF files can trip up the unwary. They are neither bitmap nor vector, per se. PDF stands for “Portable Document Format”. It is a file format for capturing and sending electronic documents in exactly the format generated by the original programme (e.g. Microsoft Word, InDesign, etc). With the exception of pdf files created by Adobe Illustrator (see below), it is best to consider pdfs as being for viewing only, rather than as a file format you use for image creation.
The Illustrator exception:
An Adobe Illustrator .ai or .eps vector file can be saved as a .pdf. It will look exactly as per the layout of the page in Illustrator, and it will retain all the vector properties of the .ai file. This particular type of pdf file can then be re-opened and worked on in Illustrator - in vector format. This is an anomaly in the pdf world.
Note: Any pdf document can be opened up in Photoshop, but the opened image will be in bitmap format, and you will not be able to edit the individual elements of the image.
The following image file formats are the most common that an Account Manager will need to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
All image file formats can be used on either a Mac or PC if the user is running graphics software, such as Adobe Creative Suite. As a vast proportion of graphics professionals are Mac users, we can pretty much assume they will be able to work with vector files. Typically, our clients will be PC-based and running basic software such as Microsoft Office. In this instance, our “PC users” will be unable to open/place vector files, therefore we would give them bitmap images only. When you supply image files to your client, it pays to ask who will be using the images and the purpose of use.
One way you can supply images and logos is in two folders: “Mac” and “PC”. Mac format files will be vector-based (.ai and .eps) and PC format files will be bitmap (.jpeg, .png, .gif). That way you can be assured that PC users will know which folder to access and that any image they select will be usable. Mac users will want the highest quality images possible, and they will thank you for supplying vector formats. Mac users can also use the bitmap file versions if they need to (e.g. for web).
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Research activities are typically initiated and conducted by your client, as part of their marketing remit. However, there is another type of research that is advertising-specific and is more likely to be initiated (or at least recommended) by your agency rather than by your client. The two main areas of research that an agency would get involved with are ‘pre-testing’ and ‘post-testing’.
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