Designing an effective vehicle wrap requires an educated approach. A designer who offers vehicle wrap design needs to be intimately familiar with the wrap process, installation obstacles and designing advertisements with a short view time.
Vehicle wraps are a personal advertisement for most customers since they plan to drive it around for years. Business cards, postcards, flyers and other short-term advertising will be replaced within months while a vehicle wrap needs to be designed to be effective for several years.
Unlike print advertising, the wrap also needs to be effective in a short viewing period. The process requires steering the customer a bit on what works, as well as offering clear ideas at the start of the process.
So how do you design an effective wrap? Especially when your customer might have a huge list of ideas they want to include.
We've found that the first place to start is with your customer’s logo and any current branding they’re already using. If they have a good logo and branding philosophy in place then carrying this onto their vehicle wrap will maintain consistency.
But what do you do if the customer has a terrible logo? They’ve had it for 30 years, it’s on all of their advertising, and they don’t want to pay a ton of money to have it redesigned.
Some designers say that they simply won’t design a wrap for a customer without creating a completely new branding package for them. Most of us don’t have the luxury of turning away customers—especially when you understand where the customer is coming from budget-wise.
That said, you’re doing the customer a disservice by not pointing out some options when it comes to their ineffective design. Sure, they might have used it forever but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use an update.
We have a logo design package that includes art files and ownership of the design. We also have design setup charges for our vehicle wraps. We have to measure and photograph their vehicle, typeset/font information, import provided art files, etc., which means there is going to be an art charge. We may not get the customer to bite on a complete logo design package, but they may be open to paying a little more for us to work a little magic on their existing logo.
Plan a few extra hours into the design setup and give your customer this setup pricing up front. Once they agree to your pricing, and you’ve received a deposit, then spend a little more time polishing up their logo.
Sure, it’s not a complete branding package or a total redesign, but it is helping the customer. With your expertise you should be able to find elements of their logo that can be expanded upon.
Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, once said, “Keeping it simple for the consumer is incredibly dire.”
Incredibly dire may sound a bit extreme, but in the case of vehicle wrap design it’s really apropos.
There are two consumers in this case. The consumer purchasing the vehicle wrap (your customer), and the consumer who will view the wrap advertisement (and hopefully purchase from your customer).
The effectiveness of the design ultimately benefits or harms your customer’s advertising campaign. A simple design that quickly impacts the consumer is of dire importance in a visually noisy market.
The Three W’S
I’ve discussed this in more depth in a previous article, but “The Three W’s” of wrap design are the starting, and sometimes ending, point of what we include on our wraps. Here they are:
• Who you are
• What you do
• Where you’re located
“Who you are” would include the company name or logo. This logo should reinforce what the company does even if the consumer doesn’t have time to read the tagline.
"What you do” is this tagline, slogan or statement of what the company does. Often what the company does is already part of the name/logo. If the slogan says something unique, reinforces the brand or highlights a special service then definitely add it in. If it’s a repeat of the service already stated within the logo then leave it off.
“Where you’re located” is the contact information. If you have a professional website in place then highlight this. Usually a URL is easier to remember and the consumer can get the phone number from the website. If there is no website, or it isn’t up to snuff, then include the phone number primarily. Strongly discourage the customer from including more than one phone number.
All additional information is considered secondary/extraneous information. Additional data is rarely necessary on a vehicle wrap. It’s usually information that is best saved for a flyer or postcard, where the consumer has more time to view it. Some customers will insist that additional information be included. In this case, be sure it’s smaller, not as visually bold and placed so it doesn’t detract from the primary information.
Part of a vehicle wrap design is adding in color behind the logo and text that sets it off from the color of the vehicle. The background color should contrast with the primary (three W’s) information and should not add unnecessary visual noise.
Look for a simple, clean design that flows with the shape of the vehicle and won’t distort over obstacles. Often simple blocks of color or color with a subtle fade adds interest without distracting from the text.
Pay attention to how the background design flows around the sides of the vehicle. Stripes should be designed to continue evenly around the vehicle or should end in lights or with a defined edge so it doesn’t look off when viewed from an angle.
If you have artwork down the sides that includes a pattern be sure to keep in mind how it will look across the hood or other horizontal plane as well. We’ll often fade the edges to a solid color and then continue that fade into the same solid color along the other plane so it has a cleaner edge.
If we have a fade, from one color to another color on the sides, then we match the same fade on the back. This means that during the design process you have to pay attention to where the fade transitions on the vehicle and keep it consistent. When designing a vehicle wrap you’re often viewing one side at a time. Keeping your template or photos scaled and noting placement will keep the fade consistent during installation.
When the design is for a partial wrap, be sure that you design some interest into how the wrap ends and the background begins. Wraps that simply end at a door are boring. If the customer’s logo has an interesting shape try using it to create an edge to the wrap.
You can also do a simple curved shape, a fade from the wrap design to the color of the vehicle or some other shape that creates visual interest. Be sure the edge isn’t so bold that it detracts from the primary information though. It should compliment the logo and service information and not be the first place your eyes are drawn to.