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What Kind of File is That and What Does It Do?

What-Kind-of-File-Is-That-and-What-Does-It-DoDawning with the age of the personal computer in 1984 to the late 1990s, the predominant people who worked with image and design file types were graphic designers and the marketing, advertising and other creative functions they worked with.

Today, as corporations outsource a lot of the creative function, and with the explosion of small businesses who utilize the expertise, creativity and cost-effectiveness of design and marketing firms, you may be working directly at the front line with an outside creative consultant instead of in the background where you only see the close-to-finished product.

It’s becoming progressively more valuable for you to have a working knowledge of some common image and “design” file types – especially with the increase in popularity of social media and the photographic tools and apps available to tag, edit and post photos. Some of these you may already be familiar with, as well as the programs you can use to open and edit them, while others may be new to you.

  • EPS: You’ll probably hear this in connection with your logo and with larger marketing “pieces” – usually tradeshow graphics and sharp photographs. EPS files are high resolution image files. When your design firm asks you for an EPS of your logo or an image file you have, it will allow them to easily add your logo to a lot of different designs of varying sizes without losing the clarity and resolution.
  • JPG: A common file type for images, especially for the web.
  • PNG: Another image file type. This one is also used for the web. PNGs allow for transparency in the image, while JPGs do not.
  • PDF: A well-known file type for documents. When created, most PDFs are not editable or are locked. If you send your design firm a PDF to edit, they’ll probably have to recreate it from scratch (unless they created it to begin with, of course).
  • PSD: This is a Photoshop file, which can only be viewed & edited in Adobe Photoshop or a compatible program. If you do not use Photoshop, it doesn’t always work correctly and since you aren’t most likely a graphic designer – you would want one to do any serious editing/manipulation of the graphic/image in a PSD file.
  • TIFF:  A file with this extension is a Tagged Image File and is widely supported by image-manipulation applications, by publishing and page layout applications, by scanning, faxing, word processing, optical character recognition and other applications – it is not widely supported by web browsers, but still remains widely accepted as a photograph file standard in the printing business.

The easiest way to attempt to open files are by double-clicking the file icon and let your PC decide which program to use to open the file. This can be cause for aggravation because you may not have a compatible program that will open the file.

Warning: Be careful when opening executable file formats received via email or downloaded from websites you’re not familiar with or do not trust – they could be corrupted or contain a virus or other nasty that will infiltrate and harm your electronic device.

Bonus: “Live” or “raw” files: If your design firm requests this type of file, they want a file they can edit. This could be a PSD, EPS, or even an InDesign file. What your design firm is not looking for is a Word document, a PDF, or a JPG. If these are the only file types you have for the item in question, your design firm more than likely will have to recreate that file in order to make the edits you want.

Example: Your design firm is going to create a brochure, but they need your logo. They ask for it in EPS, but you only have it in a small JPG. Your design firm will then have to recreate the logo as an EPS file. If they use the JPG in the brochure, it will be blurry—possibly unreadable—when the brochure is printed. Some design firms will recreate the logo (and provide you with an EPS file of the logo) free of charge while other firms may deem that out of scope and charge an extra fee. It all depends on the size of the project and the firm you’re working with.

Tip: When you work with an outside firm, make sure you get all “native” design files as part of your deliverables package. Put it in the contract. This will allow you the access to your original design & image files that are very useful when minor changes or elements are needed for new projects.

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