Raster Images vs. Vector Graphics

Raster Images vs. Vector Graphics

Computer graphics can be created as either raster or vector images. Raster graphics are bitmaps. A bitmap is a grid of individual pixels that collectively compose an image. Raster graphics render images as a collection of countless tiny squares. Each square, or pixel, is coded in a specific hue or shade. Individually, these pixels are worthless. Together, they’re worth a thousand words.

Raster graphics are best used for non-line art images; specifically digitized photographs, scanned artwork or detailed graphics. Non-line art images are best represented in raster form because these typically include subtle chromatic gradations, undefined lines and shapes, and complex composition.

However, because raster images are pixel-based, they suffer a malady called image degradation. Just like photographic images that get blurry and imprecise when blown up, a raster image gets jagged and rough. Why? Ultimately, when you look close enough, you can begin to see the individual pixels that comprise the image. Hence, your raster-based image of Wayne Newton, magnified to 1000%, becomes bitmapped before you can isolate that ravenous glint in his eye. Although raster images can be scaled down more easily, smaller versions often appear less crisp or “softer” than the original.

To maximize the quality of a raster image, you must keep in mind that the raster format is resolution-specific — meaning that raster images are defined and displayed at one specific resolution. Resolution in raster graphics is measured in dpi, or dots per inch. The higher the dpi, the better the resolution. Remember also that the resolution you actually observe on any output device is not a function of the file’s own internal specifications, but the output capacity of the device itself. Thus, high resolution images should only be used if your equipment has the capability to display them at high resolution.

Better resolution, however, comes at a price. Just as raster files are significantly larger than comparable vector files, high resolution raster files are significantly larger than low resolution raster files. Overall, as compared to vector graphics, raster graphics are less economical, slower to display and print, less versatile and more unwieldy to work with. Remember though that some images, like photographs, are still best displayed in raster format. Common raster formats include TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PCX and BMP files. Despite its shortcomings, raster format is still the Web standard — within a few years, however, vector graphics will likely surpass raster graphics in both prevalence and popularity.

Unlike pixel-based raster images, vector graphics are based on mathematical formulas that define geometric primitives such as polygons, lines, curves, circles and rectangles. Because vector graphics are composed of true geometric primitives, they are best used to represent more structured images, like line art graphics with flat, uniform colors. Most created images (as opposed to natural images) meet these specifications, including logos, letterhead, and fonts.

Inherently, vector-based graphics are more malleable than raster images — thus, they are much more versatile, flexible and easy to use. The most obvious advantage of vector images over raster graphics is that vector images are quickly and perfectly scalable. There is no upper or lower limit for sizing vector images. Just as the rules of mathematics apply identically to computations involving two-digit numbers or two-hundred-digit numbers, the formulas that govern the rendering of vector images apply identically to graphics of any size.

Further, unlike raster graphics, vector images are not resolution-dependent. Vector images have no fixed intrinsic resolution, rather they display at the resolution capability of whatever output device (monitor, printer) is rendering them. Also, because vector graphics need not memorize the contents of millions of tiny pixels, these files tend to be considerably smaller than their raster counterparts. Overall, vector graphics are more efficient and versatile. Common vector formats include AI, EPS, CGM, WMF and PICT (Mac).

Proofing Documents

Proofing Documents

The process of producing an accurate sample of a document or printed piece for internal or client review is called proofing. Composite proofing, also known as comprehensive proofing, is used in commercial printing and produces an output of the document’s images, line art and text elements. Off-press proofing checks for a document’s images, pagination and colors. In other words, how a document will look when it prints. Before sending a document to a printing press, proofread it for errors.

20 Proofreading Tips:

– Use a red pen to proofread and mark errors.
– Read the document forward, checking for proper grammar.
– Read the document backward, checking for misspellings.
– Check and recheck dates, names, addresses and phone numbers.
– Check headlines and subheadings.
– Check spacing and margins.
– Check photos and illustrations, and for correct captions.
– Check quotes and documentation.
– Check abbreviations and contractions.
– Check for doubled words, such as to to.
– Check fonts, punctuation and fragments.
– Check subject/verb agreement.
– Check nouns and verbs, and avoid slang words, unless appropriate, jargon, and cliches.
– Check for consistent verb tenses and voice.
– Check for paraphrasing.
– Read the document aloud. Ask someone else to read it aloud.
– Turn the document upside down to eliminate word distractions, then check it again.
– Note that spell check recognizes there, their and they’re as the same.
– When in doubt, reference a dictionary or thesaurus.
– Take a break and then proofread it again.

Conducting Market Research

Conducting Market Research

The Importance of Market Research

Brochures, tear sheets, business plans, marketing campaigns, direct mail, catalogs, reports and sales information sheets need to land in a writer’s in-box first. Researching the product or service before writing is the most important step, and is often ignored. So, what information should be studied prior to writing?

– What are the features and technologies of the product or service?
– How do the features benefit the consumer and what’s in it for them?
– What are the consumer advantages of using the product or service?
– What are the disadvantages and how does the manufacturer counter them?
– What is the product or service guarantee, such as repair and replacement guidelines?
– How does the product or service compete in the business market?

Understanding the product or service in-and-out is the first step. Next, who is the consumer, or target audience, of this product or service?

– What are the demographics, or external characteristics, of the target audience?
– What are the psychographics, or internal characteristics, of the target audience?
– What is the main concern to consumers about the product or service?
– What motivates the target audience to purchase the product or use the service?

Understanding the target audience on paper is one thing, but understanding how the target audience speaks, thinks and acts is another. Read the magazines the target audience subscribes to. Attend trade shows and review trade publications. Schedule a focus group, or request former transcripts. Writing for a target audience is very difficult without first conducting some research. There’s a huge difference between “faster shopping,” which is vague, and “faster shopping with more checkout lanes,” which focuses on how shopping is easier. Focus on what the target audience needs and answer how.

To answer how, you must know the difference between features and benefits. Features are characteristics helping the consumer differentiate between products or services in the market. Benefits show the consumer how the product or service features meet their needs.

Consumers want to know how a product or service can make them happier, richer, smarter or fitter than the average consumer. In order to measure results, first review the main focus of the campaign. The focus determines whether the campaign generates sales or inquiries, answers questions, establishes brand recognition, revamps brand identity, introduces products or services, or changes concepts.