I’m glad to be back in the temporary employ of MNE Media, an independent producer of Gaelic-language tele. The show I’m working on is called Cuide Ri Cathy (Company with Cathy). It’s an interview show where Cathy MacDonald chats with Scottish celebrities over the course of a single day. So far I’ve done shows with Hardeep Singh Kohli, Tony Roper, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Alan Rough, Sir Menzies Campbell and, er, Leon Jackson. It’s a warm show, informal, friendly and relaxed.
As I walked into the offices on Thursday, though, I got a shock. The whole place was branded, from wall-mounted hard-backed posters to PC screen-savers, with the logo I designed for them last month. Designing logos is not something I usually do, as a rule, and I was flattered and perplexed when they approached me with the project. They explained their wishes for it in abstact terms, essentially describing how they saw MNE as a company (alive, dynamic, current, etc.), and I had a weekend to come up with basic concepts. Coming up with images around a theme turned out to be a great joy, and a very similar process to writing drama.
The strongest concept I had by Monday morning was that of a fuse. Not the kind of fuse that goes in a mains plug, obviously, but the fuse of a bomb, a stick of dynamite. I thought the spark of the fuse would in itself be dynamic, while holding the promise of the explosion to come. Come Monday I showed a mock up to the MNE senior management and left them to consider. Thankfully, the concept appealed to them and their only notes were practical, considerate of its future as embroidery on jackets and polo shirts, letterheads and on the side of vehicles. After a few drafts, everybody was happy, especially me: I’m now a logo designer!
After that was the usual technical ballet of the delivery. I’m used to this when doing video for a company’s website. Basically, websites are not my area of expertise; I have enough knowledge to be dangerous, but not enough to be really useful. So there’s often a brief period of finding just the right format for the web guys, them talking in web terms, me talking in video terms. We always get the optimum file pretty quickly, but the trial and error for a project’s specific requirements is always necessary, it seems. In fact, it’s probably better than me thinking I know it all, because I’ll never be as au fait as someone who’s dedicated to a medium other than my own.
In this case, the foreign medium was print. The brief period of trial and error was with the company that was to put the logo onto physical objects. The issue at hand was the relationship between the resolution of an image and its dpi (dots per inch). In short, I was producing files of huge resolution, many times that of a movie projected in theatres, but because I was operating within a video application (thinking only of endcards for programmes and animations) the dpi was constant and unchangeable at 72 dpi. This is generally considered the standard for all video, at least the conversations I’ve witnessed between videographers and printers is anything to go by.
The trouble is that 72 dpi is pretty poor when printing something physically. Having done a bit of research online, it’s my lay impression that although they seem the same in principle, dpi and resolution are quite independent of each other. Essentially, no matter how much I upped the resolution of the image, because the dpi was 72 it would always look poor when printed on a large scale. The dpi is more an instruction to the printing device on how to render the image physically than a true measure of the image’s sharpness. This implies that once you have a sufficiently resolved initial image (albeit of 72 dpi), one can simply use a print-friendly application such as Photoshop to simply set the dpi higher.
This is what I did. I took an image 3840 x 2160 (four times the resolution of HD video, which you can watch on the biggest screen of any multiplex with no problem at all), opened it in Photoshop and reset the dpi to 400. The resolution increased accordingly (and artificially, of course), but hopefully the resulting file would print with solid curves and smooth gradients. Judging from the decorations at the MNE office, it worked just fine.
Now, I just need to get myself one of those polo shirts…