What is vector artwork?
Vector artwork is art that's made up of vector graphics. These graphics are points, lines, curves and shapes that are based on mathematical formulas. When you scale a vector image file, it isn't low resolution and there's no loss of quality, so it can be sized to however large or small you need it to be. It's an excellent tool for putting company logos on business cards, creating poster designs, and when photo-shopping in Adobe Photoshop. Any art made with vector illustration software like Adobe Illustrator is considered vector art.
In comparison, raster art (also referred to as bitmaps or raster images) is created using colorized pixels. When you enlarge a raster file with pixel-based art too much, the edges look jagged and the quality is lost. The resolution independence vector art displays allows it to be used in a variety of forms, from small illustrations to massive billboards.
The rise of vector images.
Some of the first types of computer graphics were vectors, as the computational power necessary to create raster images was too expensive. Early computers used vector displays in the 1960s and ’70s; video games like 1979’s Asteroids also used vector graphics. This practice continued until the 1980s, by which point most displays had switched to raster graphics.
Due to the need for art that prints at multiple sizes and responsive web designs adapting to varying screen sizes, vector files are a necessity of modern design. They create clean, scaleable images that allow for exciting visual possibilities with the added bonus of functionality. Modern typography is almost exclusively created using vectors. The text you’re looking at right now is a product of vector graphics. 3D modeling and the computer graphics (CG) we see in blockbuster superhero films are the direct consequence of developments in vector art and illustration.
Where vector art and design meet.
As both designers and illustrators may work with vectors, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Designer: Designers think about overall composition when they create advertisements, websites, or anything else that features careful organization of text, graphics, and other structural elements. In these compositions, designers use vector artwork created by illustrators, or they sometimes produce vector art of their own for the designs. A designer may create a vector-based design that incorporates many different pieces of vector artwork.
Illustrator: Illustrators are often more art-focused and create individual images, not an entire design. Illustrators may produce individual pieces of vector art that can stand alone or can be added into another piece by a graphic designer.