The Devil In The Design: Why Design Files Matter For SEO and More

Image for that represents the Gig Economy - Remote Working

Since the world went digital, it has become stunningly easy for anyone with a computer and WiFi to learn new skills. Forget the big names in the DIY-autodidact market like Skill Share, you can type just about any “how to” into the Youtube search box and be given a tome of videos. As a result we are seeing an incredible, organic, perhaps overwhelming explosion of new and independently honed talent.

The Gig Economy is a formal academic term and a real aspect to the contemporary business landscape. Some individuals with in-demand skills – like content writers, coders, and videographers, have been able to build robust careers as freelancers. For the demand side, freelancing sites offer you a global web of talent to pick from; so, how could NOT finding the right talent be possible?

Well, sometimes too much of a good thing…

Recently, we began working with a client on an infographic, something we regularly help companies with. This was a new client that already had many of their essential graphics, such as their logo, designed. It seemed that having some of the preliminary icons already designed would allow us to focus on more nuanced aspects of our collaboration, but there proved to be some devil in the designs.

Not to get overly technical, but there is a little bit of design jargon I need to quickly break down. When making design files, there are a number of programs you can use, and types of files you can save designs as. Adobe makes many of the programs graphic designers use, but the best known is one you’ve likely heard of, Photoshop. This program is so prolific, I mean, we use it as a verb! It’s a fantastic program, and one that has become an industry “must”, partly because the digital schoolhouse I mentioned before has produced phalanxes of PS wizards!

Again, I think it is incredible that so many people can master these design programs, but while many people learn Photoshop, some avoid diving deep into learning Adobe’s more industry-oriented program, Illustrator. What makes Illustrator so amazing is it’s exclusive focus on vectors, which are most often used for designing logos and icons. While some designers and non-designers have told me they prefer Photoshop for this kind of work – perhaps, intimidated by the complexity of Illustrator – designing vectors in Photoshop when they really should be natively designed in Illustrator is, in my humble opinion, a big mistake.

Have you ever inserted an image in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, tried to expand the image only to find it became pixelated and not sharp? Those were likely not vector files, but created in a  pixel environment, which are great for photos, but their major limitation is that they cannot be increased beyond a limit without falling apart.

vectors vs pixels

Have you ever inserted an image in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, tried to expand the image only to find it became pixelated and unsharp? Those were likely not vector files, but created in a pixel environment, which are great for photos, but their major limitation is that they cannot be increased beyond a limit without falling apart.

Vectors  are files that once exported can be resized to any scale without distorting the image or design. This might seem like technical semantics, but the type of files used has major impacts not only on the process of designing itself, but also the results of that process.

For the process, using a file type that does not inherently give the designer the necessary freedom to enlarge graphics as needed creates more work for the designer, which creates more cost for the client. Over the course of a long term project, how much time and money would be spent simply resizing files that, if designed in the right program, without pixels, could be one-and-done? That isn’t the kind of question I like my clients to wonder!

As well, the differences between media types matter greatly, especially when it comes to SEO results! Quality SEO content, according to statements recently made by Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, is about not just the words, but also the overall web design of a page. “How you have things presented on your pages, how you integrate images… all of those factors, they kind of come into play there.” Reaching new people is one of the core values websites offer, and building a website with the right graphics engineering is as important as strong visual storytelling.

For our recent client, we were able to use their icons, designed in Photoshop, by using them at about the size they were engineered, and working the rest of the designs around that. We found a creative solution to integrate them, but had the icons needed to be scaled larger it would have been a tough conversation about possibly rebuilding the designs in Illustrator since they were created in Photoshop, and all from an easily avoidable issue.

Since logos are a type of design that gets used so widely across collateral and promotional materials, websites, etc. it is always a good idea to build them in Illustrator as vectors. It’s not only efficient, but it saves clients from ever being stuck between asking their old designer for a native file, and paying a new designer to redo something they already paid for.

So while I do have immense respect for the millions of DIY-designers learning so much just off their computers and from peers online, there are still some things professional design firm experience can offer. And for all the hype around the Gig Economy, the Gig Economy knows it is hard to navigate: freelancer websites have begun creating new quality-assured tiers or badges like “Expert Vetted” and “Top Rated Plus” to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is very likely that if you’re searching for someone with a particular set of skills, you likely don’t have a background in that particular expertise. As such, an external verifier, like a review, testimonial, or skill certification, is needed to help assure you are hiring the right person for the job!

For me, good business is about relationships. By consistently delivering top value designs to my clients I’ve continued building strong repeat business. This makes things much easier for everyone: my clients don’t need to search the web upside down and sideways every time they need new UX/UI, a white paper infographic, or design strategy, and I can comfortably focus on delivering the professional designs my clients need!


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