In a past blog we discussed “What Sign Designers Need to Know” to perform successfully in the signage industry. Today we turned that question around and asked what graphic designers in the sign industry want clients to understand about designing for signs. We breakdown vector vs raster, common file types, the difference in font types, image copyrights, and more in this blog written for you the customer!

Graphic Design Terms and File Types You May Need to Understand When Buying Signage

As with any industry, our graphic designers deal with a lot of various types of lingo and terms that the average client wouldn’t normally encounter. In this section we’re breaking down some of those terms you’ll likely come across when working with a sign company.

Vector vs Raster

More than any topic discussed in this article our sign designers wanted to emphasize the importance and distinction between vector and raster art. Though they can look similar to a layperson, how they are used, and what they allow a sign designer to do, is quite different with each type or art.

What is Vector Art?

More often than not a sign designer working on your sign will request vector art, or if art doesn’t exist yet then they’ll create vector art. For that reason we’re starting with the explanation first on what is vector art and why is it so integral for sign designs.

Vector Art is comprised of points, lines, and geometric shapes. This distinction from Raster art means that Vector logos for instance can be shrunk or enlarged without any affect on the quality of the logo. Logos often are comprised of these three components, points, lines, and shapes, and therefore it is best to design logos in a Vector format at the start. Common Vector file types include AI, EPS, PDF, CDR, EMF files, PS files, PNG, TIF, COLLADA, and AutoCAD DXFs. It’s important to note that these file types may not be exclusive to Vector art files, so you should always check with your signage team to determine if your logo is indeed a Vector format.

What is Raster Art?

Raster Art is not made up of lines and shapes and instead resembles a grid with points that make up the whole picture. (The art movement Pointilism is therefore a good example of what one might imagine when imagining Raster Art. Due to the finite number of points in the image Raster Art can not in fact be expanded and shrunk in the same capacity as it does indeed lose some of its quality and integrity. Raster art is though useful for more complex imagery. Raster file types often include JPG, PNG, TIFF, GIF and BMP, though again these are not all exclusive from Vector files and thus you should always send them to your signage team to ensure if they are Vector or Raster files.

My logo file is in a Raster format. Will that work for my sign?

Most often if we receive a Raster file we will need to convert the format to Vector art to allow for scalability. Signs are often much larger than Raster art is designed for, and therefore Vector art is required for signage.

Will my sign company convert my Raster file to Vector if needed?

At Ortwein Sign, our team has the capabilities to work with most Raster art provided to us to convert it into a workable Vector format.

What file types do I need to know to work with my sign company’s graphic designers?

Though you do not need a working knowledge of file types, it may be helpful to at least have a basic understanding of which ones you may come across. Here are the file types with their acronym and full title listed out.

  • JPG or JPEG = Joint Photographic Experts Group
  • PNG = Portable Network Graphics
  • GIF = Graphics Interchange Format
  • PDF = Portable Document Format
  • SVG = Scalable Vector Graphics
  • EPS = Encapsulated PostScript
  • AI = Adobe Illustrator

Font Types You May Need to Be Familiar With When Buying Signage

Though you might expect there would only be one Font Type, there are actually two that Graphic Designers use. Those are TrueType Fonts and OpenType fonts.

What Are TrueType Fonts and OpenType Fonts?

TrueType Fonts

According to, “the TrueType digital font format was originally designed by Apple Computer, Inc. It was a means of avoiding per-font royalty payments to the owners of other font technologies, and a solution to some of the technical limitations of Adobe’s Type 1 format. Microsoft first included TrueType in Windows 3.1, in April 1992. Soon afterwards, Microsoft began rewriting the TrueType rasterizer to improve its efficiency and performance and remove some bugs (while maintaining compatibility with the earlier version).”

OpenType Fonts explains, “OpenType is a font format developed jointly by Microsoft and Adobe as an extension of Appleā€™s TrueType font format. The OpenType 1.0 font specification was released in 1997. Since that time Adobe and Microsoft have continued to work together updating and refining the specification. Several other companies, including Apple and Monotype, have also contributed to the specification over the years. Currently, every major font foundry and most minor ones are developing fonts in OpenType format.”

How do TrueType Fonts differ from OpenType Fonts?

TrueType Fonts are adapted from the original OpenType Font style as a replacement, therefore OTF’s are more modern, and more adaptable, for designers. specifically cites the following as reasons OTF are more versatile:

OpenType provides several advantages over older font technologies:

  • Larger glyph limit (64k)

  • Cross-platform support (Win and Mac)

  • Support for both PostScript Type 1 or TrueType outlines

  • Support for advanced typographic features

Common Misconceptions About Using Images from the Internet

Our graphic designers can help develop logos, or adapt existing logos, to fit on your signage. However, on that rare occasion, our Graphic Designers will be sent a picture someone has found via a Google Search to incorporate into a logo, and unless you have permission of the creator of that image our team cannot use it. That’s because typically images found online have some form of copyright. So here we wanted to breakdown some common misconceptions about copyright and free use images.

  • “If it’s on the internet, isn’t it free to use?” – This is perhaps the most common misperception, because the ease with finding an image is often perceived to imply its free to use. However that is rarely the case. Most likely the image has a form of copyright protection, and using it in your logo would put you at legal risk.
  • “If I credit the image, is it ok?” – Not nessecarily. Though in the case of images from Creative Commons, some of which require credit to use, you may be in the clear; however, most often simply citing the source of the image is not enough of a form of permission to use the image.
  • “If I make changes, isn’t it fair us?” – This too is not simply a yes answer, as that may be the case; however, it’s not for certain that it won’t be challenged through legal means.

Overall the tip is it’s better to be safe than sorry. Our Ortwein Sign team has the tools to help develop an original logo for your business, so you don’t need to fret about these copyright questions and concerns.