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Understanding file types is important for saving and handling design files. Each file type has a purpose for how the design can be used, who will be needing the file, and the intended task to be achieved.

Working Design files:

Working design files are Software specific files that can only be opened using programs that created or can edit the file. These are important to save; for future editing by the original designer, or the next designer down the road.

If you do not have the specific software, you may not be able to open the working design files. Professional Designer software can be expensive and require several hundreds of hours experience to properly maneuver—and in many cases, a focused degree in the trade.

Without the expertise of the software, or proper design principles, it is best not to open these files anyway, as they may be incorrectly modified or unintentionally overwritten.

Though saving and storing these files for future use will be helpful.

Packaged project folders – Files are typically “packaged” so that a designer may revisit or hand-off a project, to the next designer, instead of redesigning from start.

If a project folder needs to be moved, saved, or shared, it is best to move the folder as a whole—keeping the internal/linked project files altogether in their proper place.

Universal/Deliverable file types:

These are files that most anyone can open and even do basic edits with standard accessible software. They include PDF, PNG, JPG, GIF, and MP4. These can be utilized on most computers and devices. Such file types are standard in delivering to design clients as they can view, share, and utilize them on nearly any platform.

PDF – has many uses. They can be interactive, multi-paged, and are typically the best file type to use for printing.

PNG, JPG, GIF – are graphic files that work well when viewed on screens. Some can have transparencies or even animated appearance.

MP4 – a common video file with broad playability.

It is important to note that some files can be layered or flat. Layered files may preserve some editing capabilities where flat files are what they appear. Flat files do not retain original creation information, so you wouldn’t be able to open a flat file in editing software to continue a project. A working file is required.

How a file can be used for optimum resizing, printing, clarity, greatly depends on many factors. Color profile, resolution, and raster or vector formats, all affect how a graphic file may be used.

Summary: Who uses What?

Working files – these are used by designers that create, edit, or continue a project. Can only be opened with the native/professional design software.

Packaged Project Files – these are the assets that are linked together to allow a working project file to function normally. These are a necessity for designers – past, present, and future.

Deliverable Files – these can be used by anyone for simple viewing, sharing, and ready use on multiple devices and platforms – such as websites, social media, apps, and home computers.

Print Files – these will be vector format or very high-resolution raster files. These are typically delivered in (.ai) or (.pdf) format. Special printing may sometimes require a specific filetype than can be exported from the working design file.

There are many, many more aspects that are involved with each file type, software, and end-use intension—too many to dive into here. But this is a basic overview of some file types that you may be asked to handle or save as a part of a design project.

For further questions or assistance with file use, reach out to a designer and they will be able to help you determine the best file type for your desired use.