Read This Before Designing Your Company’s Vehicle Wraps
You probably already know that vehicle advertising gives you far more brand impressions per dollar than TV, radio, or online advertising. And unlike monthly billboard contracts, you pay only once to wrap a vehicle, and you get a mobile billboard that stays in service for years. It’s a beautiful advertising opportunity, and it would be a shame to waste it with a poorly executed design. Maybe you have a talented, on-staff designer who does great work with your website and brochures, but the three-dimensional considerations of vehicle wrap design represent a different kind of challenge. Wrap creation is part graphic design and part 3D modeling, so you’ll need an experienced wrap designer to collaborate with your team. (Don’t worry, US Logo has an in-house wrap design department.) Even if you plan to take a hands-off approach to the design process, it’s nice to understand what’s happening, and why. Read this before designing your company’s vehicle wraps; it’s a short article, and it will help you communicate your ideas more effectively to the people doing the work.
Basics of Vehicle Advertising
This isn’t rocket science; all advertising design follows the same basic formula. It needs to:
- 1. Get attention.
- 2. Identify a need.
- 3. Offer a solution.
- 4. Ask for the order.
In long-form advertising media, like broadcast and print, this formula plays out in varying degrees of complexity. But a vinyl wrap is like a billboard; the formula has to be effective in a matter of two to three seconds, so it’s massively condensed:
- 1. Get attention – Your design should attract eyes. Good design always contains a main visual element that hijacks the viewer’s eyes, then leads them to the next element, which is…
- 2. Identify a need – Your company name, alone, may adequately identify the need. If you have a name like “BugAway,” or “Bill’s Septic Cleaning Service,” there will be no doubt what audience you’re speaking to or what their needs are. On the other hand, if your company name is less explanatory, like “Vantage Engineering,” viewers will need a little more information to understand why they should do business with you. A tagline or other explanatory statement is commonly used to flesh this out, and also to…
- 3. Offer a solution – Again, the name of your company may convey both the need and the solution in a single, neat package, if it clearly identifies the service you provide. But our Vantage Engineering example above lacks clarity, if left alone. A tagline like “Streamlining Petroleum Facilities from the Ground Up” tells potential industry customers that their operations might benefit from improvement (identify a need) and that your company can solve this problem (offer a solution).
- 4. Ask for the order – In the context of broadcast and Internet ads, this call to action is usually very literal. “Call now. Operators are waiting,” or “Click to Save.” In a vehicle advertisement, the contact information is the call to action, and it needs to be placed into the design so that the viewer’s attention comes to rest on it.
What Should My Vehicle Wrap Look Like?
Once you understand the formula for a good piece of advertising, the design itself can be undertaken. Again, there are some general design standards that succeed time after time in advertising, whether it’s a print ad, a stationary billboard, or the side of a vehicle. Here’s a checklist to guide you, as your design develops:
1. Maintain a Consistent Brand Identity
Your logo and company colors are on your website, signage, business cards, etc., so be sure that your vehicle advertising has exactly the same look and style as your other materials. These fundamental building blocks of brand identity are the only way consumers can retain information about your company in their mental catalogs.
2. Short Text is the Key to Wrap Readability
Up to 80,000 people a day may see a single, wrapped vehicle—amazing advertising numbers, but they won’t see it for long at 30 or 55 mph, so your visual pitch has to be made quickly and efficiently. It’s easier to make a clear, simple impression than to treat a vehicle wrap like a brochure. Avoid long phrases, lengthy descriptions … anything that can’t be read at a glance is too long.
Make sure your company name, logo, tagline, and website are easily legible. You can also include a phone number, but unless it’s an extremely memorable one, don’t expect to generate calls with your vehicle advertising, alone. If your wrap includes additional information, like an email address, a short services list, etc., consider putting it on the back, where, at least the drivers behind you have a chance to read some of it, if they’re bored.
3. Clean, Simple Layouts Work Best in Custom Wrap Design
Good marketing designers all share a love of what they call white spaces, areas of negative visual interest that allow the main elements of a design to shine through. Too many shapes and colors in a design can be as confusing as too many words. Every vehicle wrap should have a simple and deliberate color scheme that matches your brand identity. Stay with the colors you use on your web page, to carry that brand over into real life. You’re trying attract eyes, not frighten them off with an overload of visual input.
4. Large Text Improves Readability
If you can’t read small text in your design without a long glance, either make it bigger or get rid of it. Although you may find all the fine details of your business fascinating, too much undersized text actually discourages viewers from keeping their gaze on a design. Pick out the words that matter, and make sure they can be read at a distance.
5. Use Legible Fonts in Your Vinyl Wrap Design
There are thousands of beautiful fonts available, but advertising designers tend to stay with certain font families that put legibility above elegance. Generally speaking, stay away from fonts that are flowery, over stylized, or intended to look like script or handwriting. Avoid serif fonts when possible, as they’re harder to read at a distance. Your beautiful message won’t mean a thing if it can’t be instantly scanned and comprehended. Advertising design is built around the proven fact that you only get one chance to hook people with an advertisement; they won’t work at it, if you make it difficult.
6. High Contrast Wraps are Easiest to Read
This is where the vehicle wrap designers separate themselves from the pack of other graphic specialists; low contrast graphics can look very classy and work well in a magazine or digital ad, but a good wrap artist knows that high contrast colors are essential to make a wrap design legible.
7. Make Your Core Message Visible from All Sides of the Vehicle
Your wrap design needs to be a single, flowing creation, but within this larger aesthetic, you still have to make your key message visible from all sides. It’s okay to repeat the company name, logo, and contact information on multiple sides.
8. Include the Roof in Your Design
Casual passersby may not see the tops of your vehicles, but people on the upper floors of buildings will. Most companies don’t think about roof messaging when they wrap their fleets, so yours will stand out with that eye-in-the-sky audience.
9. Design for the Vehicle Model
The great thing about the software used by vinyl wrap designers is that you can look at a 3D mock-up of your design on a computer screen as it progresses. You’ll quickly see that the wrap layout for your delivery vans will need to look very different from the layout for your semi rigs. Each type of vehicle will need its own variation of the message to compliment the spaces available.
10. Anticipate Three Dimensional Design Distortions
Most vehicles are curvy in places, which tends to distort text and images. These areas have to be calculated into the design, which often means using them as background elements or white space in the design. There may also be ways to creatively incorporate the vehicle’s topography into the design.
Use Your Imagination
Once you have a good designer on the project, don’t be afraid to suggest crazy ideas. They know the rules of design, and if you tell them to put chrome spot graphics on your fleet, they’ll find a way to make it look good, or they’ll talk you out of the idea. Ask US Logo’s customer service reps for their ideas; vinyl offers so many finishes and design options that you probably have no idea what’s possible.
It’s a fun process, taking your company’s brand promise to the streets, setting it into motion. Although we haven’t given you enough information to actually sit down and design a wrap, we’ve hopefully given you enough to make the process enjoyable and productive.
If you’re in the Wichita, Kansas, area, Mighty Wraps (a US Logo company) is the place to go. The shop is a spacious warehouse that gives us plenty of room to wrap anything from motorcycles to big-rigs. If you’re located elsewhere, we can design and print your wrap for you, then ship it for third-party installation. Give us a call! (316) 264-1321.