Not all graphics are created by pixels. Though we often see them represented as pixels on our screens and monitors in some way or another, the graphics themselves are created with mathematical equations and formulas known as vectors. Using vectors to create graphics can have many advantages. Rather than using a bitmap to create a circle, the computer creates your shape by using an equation.
In the example above, the circle on the left is represented by a bitmap. If we were to dissect the file, we would find that the image is made up of hundreds of small blocks. An image that is 50 pixels wide and 50 pixels high would have 2,500 bits of information each with location and color attached to it. The example on the right would represent the same image using the formula shown as well as the fill color. You can imagine the vector file would require much less memory to store.
It’s also advantageous if you are planning on creating large publications, posters, packages, or any type of sharp graphics. Resizing vectors images will not result in a loss of quality since the computer only needs to change the values in the equation to result in a larger image!
Students begin the process of vector based design by working with Adobe Illustrator and using basic shapes to create every day objects. Eventually, students work with Illustrator’s powerful tools to create objects that demonstrate depth and volume as well. Vector graphics work particularly well with Adobe Flash and is a good transition into animation and interactive design in Flash.