Best Quality Logos for Office

It’s a challenge to create the absolute best quality logos for client files in Microsoft Office. Most artists choose bitmap formats for logos, usually JPEG format. Apparently this is some kind of received wisdom from artist to artist, because JPEG format is close to the worst possible format for logos. But I’ve already covered this subject in JPEG Logos? Fail! back in 2013.

Brandwares has used indexed-color PNG format for most line art (a term for non-photographic art that is mostly flat color areas). Most logos qualify as line art. But there are a couple of disadvantages to using any type of bitmap format for branding information.

With Office files, Microsoft is determined to foist image “compression” on us. I put compression in quotes because Microsoft’s solution is really downsampling by another name. Whatever the name, the results are blurry and absolutely do not reinforce the brand. All bitmap files will be downsampled unless the user chooses only a single file. You can’t protect the company logo, even with XML hacking. Let’s face it, sooner or later, bitmap logos will look like mush.

The other persistent problem with bitmap formats is what happens when you create a PDF from a document. Acrobat’s default settings assume you want to create a small file to post on a web page. This was a serious problem 20 years ago. So, once again, a software company’s helpful authoritarianism leads to default settings that cream the logos in any Office file.


Vector Formats for Best Quality Logos

For many years, we at Brandwares were aware that a vector format was a potential way out of this. Vector formats are naturals for line art, because they easily handle geometric shapes with simple coloring. But there are relatively few vector formats from which to choose, and the available formats didn’t seem up to the job.

One grandaddy of vector formats is the EPS file. Well-known to designers, the EPS doesn’t get great support in Office programs. Printing them at high resolution requires PostScript support from the printer, which is dicey in most business offices. Office programs can’t ungroup them, so adding theme color support in an Office file is out of the question.

CGM was an early contender, and is still used in technical applications. But it never got support in common file formats. SVG is making inroads on the web, but Office is only beginning to support the format.

Let’s be honest, Microsoft offers the best support to the formats it invents. For vector graphics, that is WMF and EMF. WMF is a 16-bit format that was invented in the ’90s. In practice, it’s not too useful today. All too often, WMF files do not render the inside curve of shapes like O or D. In addition, Adobe Illustrator’s WMF export is horrendous, turning every curve into a series of angled straight lines. Corel Draw does a better export, but the format is limited by its 16-bit capacity.

The format we’re left with is EMF (Enhanced MetaFile). We’ve tried EMFs exported by Illustrator, but they aren’t so great. Illustrator’s curve accuracy goes down the toilet when it exports as EMF, even though it puts Corel Draw to shame. But at this point, we realized that there might be other programs that could do a better job with EMFs.

And there is! Forget Illustrator, forget Corel Draw! For now, the king of the EMF planet is the freeware program Inkscape! This open source vector illustration package creates top-notch EMF (and SVG) graphics and can import Illustrator AI and EPS graphic files. InkScape features much better curve accuracy than Illustrator can export. Here’s the complete workflow to create a robust logo that is a small file size and sharp at any resolution and has a transparent background and will never get downsampled by Office or Acrobat!


Best Quality Logos, Step-by-Step:

You’ll need a piece of artwork in Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or Illustrator EPS (.eps) to try this out. You can download Inkscape for OS X or for Windows.

  1. In Illustrator, open the .ai or .eps file and choose the Selection tool (dark arrow). Click on the logo. If the logo outlines are selected when you do this, go to step 3. However, if clicking on the logo activates a rectangle around the logo, proceed to step 2.
  2. The rectangle that gets selected is a clipping mask and/or a compound path boundary. In Illustrator, choose Object>Clipping Path>Release. You might have to do this several times, until all clipping masks are removed. Select the rectangles. If part of the logo also gets selected when you choose a rectangle, you’re not done. When you can select just the boundary rectangles, delete them. If you neglect this step, PowerPoint can resize the clipping mask which makes the logo look cropped.
    Depending on the logo, you may also need to release the Compound Paths on the same menu. Doing this will cause the inside of A, O, D, etc. to fill in. If this happens select the paths for letter outline and the inside and choose Object>Compound Path>Make. Compound paths don’t cause problems around single letters, but they may cause issues around large groups of shapes.
  3. Save the file and close Illustrator.
  4. Open the file in InkScape. (Inkscape prefers more recent formats of .ai. If you see an import error message, try saving the file in Illustrator to a newer format)
  5. Choose File>Document Properties.
  6. On the Page tab of the dialog, expand the line Resize page to content by clicking on the plus sign.
  7. Change the units dropdown to in (inches)
  8. Set each of the 4 margin fields to 0.01 to add 1/100″ to the logo area.
  9. Click on Resize page to drawing or selection, then close the dialog.
  10. Choose File>Save As… and set Save as type: to Enhanced Metafile (*.emf). Save the file and close InkScape.
  11. Open PowerPoint, choose Insert>Picture and place the logo file. If it is the correct color you’re done. However, if you need to key part of the logo to the presentation theme, or if you need transparency in part of the logo, continue with the next step.
  12. With the logo selected, choose Picture Tools>Group>Ungroup. PowerPoint will pop up a notice: This is an imported picture, not a group. Do you want to convert it to a Microsoft Office drawing object? Click on Yes
  13. Once again, choose Drawing Tools>Group>Ungroup. Yes, you have to do it twice! This time, the drawing is actually ungrouped.

Best Quality Logos Extended

Once the file is ungrouped, you can key part or all of it to a theme color. If your presentation contains multiple color themes, then changing themes will change the keyed logo element automatically. This can be a slick trick for presentations with different sections in different code colors.

Best quality logos in identical slide layouts keyed to different color themes

The layout for these slides is identical. Each uses a different color theme that varies one code color.

Transparency is not supported in most EMF exports, but by importing and ungrouping the logo, you can add transparency back in. In PowerPoint, choose Drawing Tools>Shape Fill>More Fill Colors…, then set the Transparency slider. This works the other way around from Illustrator, but the units are the same. If the Illustrator file used 40% Opacity, set 60% Transparency in PowerPoint.

Best quality logos benefit from EMF transparency

From L to R: each character has 10% more transparency. You can’t get this by adding transparency in Illustrator, you must re-create it in Office.

EMF are not a great candidate for objects like disclaimers. Each letter includes one or 2 complex curves, so a paragraph of text will be much larger that the same disclaimer rendered as an indexed-color PNG or even a JPEG of the same text. But for logos, they’re pretty great. You get the same small file size and pin-sharp appearance regardless of how much you enlarge it. Applying image compression or printing to a low-res PDF leaves EMF logos in pristine condition. It’s by far easiest way to create the best quality logos for Microsoft Office.

9:18 pm

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  1. Pingback: JPEG Logos? Fail! - Office Best Practices

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