Design Strategies to Cook Up a Feast for the Eyes

Gourmet Wrap Design

Stephen Sinek first started in the sign business with Phoenix-based SNA Graphics where he worked his way up to Art Director. In 2006, he started his own business, Seven Sin Design. Stephen can be contacted at

How do I explain my strategy for designing vehicle wraps? Hmmm ... Okay, let’s draw a parallel from something I am very familiar with—design—to something I know very little about—cooking. Should be ... uhh … interesting, right?

The truth is that culinary art is something that I have never devoted much time to. Luckily, my wife is an amazing cook and has given me a taste of the good life. While I may not be a good cook, I do know how to create a feast for the eyes. In fact, during the past year, I have been traveling the country teaching about vehicle wrap design and I’m using this cooking metaphor more and more often.

With that said, let me explain my strategies for creating gourmet wraps.

Consulting the Menu

Much as a hungry patron might come into a restaurant seeking a delicious meal, our clients are coming to us looking for a great vehicle wrap designs to satisfy visual appetites. Sometimes the client comes in knowing what they would like to order. Other times, they might take your recommendations on what’s the best thing on the menu. Either way, you’ll be required to meet the needs of each client to keep them coming back.

The type of vehicle you’ll be working with is the X factor that will completely influence the way you design. Liken this to a customer letting you know they are vegetarian or must eat gluten-free. The vehicle is your challenge to work around. Just as these special requests must be accommodated for in the kitchen, the same is true for us designers when given our vehicle canvas.

Some vehicle types/models are more difficult to work with than others. You might find that trucks and cars have less freedom on where you can place your design elements than, say vans, which provide a more open, less constrictive canvas. Each vehicle presents its own unique challenges. With experience, you will learn the best ways to tackle each one. The key is to use your knowledge to help the customer find the right design.

Preparing the Main Course

Once the order is placed, you are now ready to begin preparing the recipe. The ingredients for each project will be based on what is provided to you from the client. They may offer a whole lot more than is necessary or even appropriate for a wrap design, so in these cases I try to “trim off the fat” and arrive with these four key ingredients: Company Name/Logo, Key Services (or slogan), Website, and Phone Number.

Take these ingredients and put them all into the vehicle template (your cooking pot). Do not start the design until you have all of the ingredients. From here I like to decide what will be my focus or “attention getter” for this particular design. Will it be a strong, relatable image that draws the viewer in? Or perhaps the company logo is interesting enough in its own right to become the main focus. Whichever you decide to designate as that main ingredient should be the first thing you place on the vehicle, finding the optimum sizing and placement.

Next, follow the key ingredient list down, arranging each of remaining elements in order (and size) of importance. The objective here is to fit these elements in the premium locations of the vehicle for best visibility. I would suggest the order I listed above to be the correct priority, unless an image will be your main ingredient, in which case it should be the largest element in your design.

Side Dishes

Once you are happy with the arrangement of the informational elements, your main course has been cooked. Now it’s time bring in your side dishes to accompany it. This includes colors, design elements, textures and things that will bring some life to the overall wrap design. The reason that these are added after the ingredients are placed is so that as your design organically evolves, you aren’t trapped into placing text or logos into awkward positions as dictated by the design elements. Your accompanying graphics should work around and with your chosen placement of those informational items, not the other way around.

Lastly, you can think of the background of your design as the plate in which your artful dish is to be served. Somebody who is about to eat their meal is more concerned with the food being served to them (your service or message) than what the plate it’s being served on looks like. For this reason, your background graphics should be subtle and complementary, allowing the real message of the vehicle wrap to stand out. Don’t interpret this as meaning the background should be boring, but be aware that an overly busy background will only be a distraction from what is really important. Keep it clean, simple and appropriate.

A Word from the Kitchen

A lot of time can be wasted in the design process if there is no formula or recipe to follow. This strategy for designing wraps has helped me to become fast and efficient at it. Sometimes the customer will send back the dish. Perhaps it was undercooked or possibly even the wrong order. I believe that taking these steps will help minimize the number of designs sent back to the kitchen. I hope this has been a helpful resource on your journey to creating your own gourmet wraps.