Archive for March, 2011

Vector And Rastor: What’s The Difference?

When working as a web or graphic designer, it is very important to understand the difference between "vector" and "rastor". These are two words used to describe the basic structure of a file or program. Take the Adobe Creative Suite for example, some of the programs included within the Suite are vector based, while others are rastor based. In particular, you should note that Photoshop is a rastor based program, while Illustrator and InDesign are both vector based programs.

Now I still haven’t answered the question of what the difference between the two is though. Well here is your explanation. The word raster refers to pixels (or points if you will), while vector refers to lines. When making an image, you can base it off of two things; individual points in the image that are colored in whatever way you want that come together to make an image, or a bunch of lines that define spaces and colors, thus creating an image. Still not getting it? That’s okay… Let me try by talking about what you’d want to use for different types of projects.

Photo Editing: Photos are loaded with tons of information all the way down to the pixel level, thus making them rastor based. If you were to take a photo and try to expand it ten times larger than it already is, it is going to get blurry. That’s because for every individual pixel of information, you are trying to turn that into 100 pixels, giving it seemingly less detail. But without simplifying that image, there is no way to really replicate it using just lines is there? That’s why photos are rastor based, but are also limited in how big you can make them.

Logo Design: Now say you are working on a logo, and you need it to work in a lot of different places (on a website, on letterhead, on a business card, or on a giant billboard). That means you need an image that can shift in size but not lose it’s definition. To do this, you want to use a vector based software. So if your logo has a "+" in it, you can make that as big as you need without distorting it, because it is defined using lines, and no matter how you alter it, it will always be two lines. Now don’t limit yourself to thinking of lines as having to be straight. Vector based software thrives off using curves. This is why vector based software is so much more ideal for making things with writing in them. Letters just don’t do well under rastor based software because you lose the specific curve of a font to aliased pixels.

And really, that’s the difference between "vector" and "rastor". You want to use rastor software when working with photos. But for pretty much anything else you are going to want to stick to vector software so that your copywriting doesn’t lose quality, and so that you can change the image size without losing quality.

Any questions? Ask away!

WordPress: The Best Blogging Software

WordPress is hands down, the best blogging software out there. After using it for my own personal website, as well as several freelance clients, I’m completely convinced there is nothing better out there. Now, it is important to note that there are two different WordPress versions that you can use; the .com and the .org versions. The .com version is not customizable anymore than your average blog software like Blogger. The .org version is the one I’m about to rave about, and is the much more involved and capable option. So, there are a few particular reasons that I believe it to be so wonderful which are outlined below:

It’s Open Source
So in case you don’t know, the phrase "open source" means that the code that runs certain software is made publicly available. With publicly available code, it makes it possible for individual developers to write additional code that can get tacked on to the initial software release in the form of apps, plugins, et cetera. Without open source software, the world would be limited to only what companies manage to come up with and release. But because of the wisdom of the WordPress team, they’ve released their potentially proprietary code to the masses to promote the growth of the software via public participation, and documented all the details in the WordPress codex.

It’s User Friendly
With my background in user research, I like to think that I have a good grasp on user friendly interfaces. I have to say outside of a handful of small issues that I’ve encountered with WordPress, it is really amazingly intuitive. They’ve managed to create an interface that promotes easy usage by developers, designers, and content publishers. Normally this is a very difficult task given that all three of those groups work on such different levels and on different content. From my experience of working on back-end code for WordPress, front-end code for my design theme, and content as a blog author, it is just so easy to use.

It’s Constantly Improving
The team at WordPress manage to release updates on a very regular basis. In addition to that, because of its open source nature, there are new plugins and themes being released for WordPress at an incredibly fast pace. The best part is, if some new technology comes out, you can bet your bottom dollar that within a few weeks at the most there will be a WordPress plugin that incorporates it into the blogging software for public usage!

It’s Incredibly Functional
Going off of my last point, the plugins available for WordPress make it incredibly functional. You can obviously use the software for simple blogging. However, you can also adapt it to maintain your entire website complete with a static homepage that isn’t your blog homepage. Once that’s complete, you can introduce youtube videos, flickr photos, facebook and twitter feeds, contact forms, and pretty much anything else your heart desires. With all of this functionality, there is hardly a reason to ever go build a smaller sized website (<100 pages) without WordPress!