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Dan Antonelli

Not sure what goes into designing the best truck wraps? Here are some tips.


The “secrets” to designing wow-worthy vehicle wraps aren’t really “secrets” anymore. At KickCharge, we’re not afraid to share the keys to success with anyone who will listen. Why, then, are there STILL so many ho-hum designs on the road? The answer is: There shouldn’t be because it’s not that difficult to create a simple, easy-to-read message once you understand fundamental vehicle branding tips.

Designs that use proper branding and easy-to-read messaging are rarely used on most vehicle wraps. This explains why many wraps are advertising failures and wasted opportunities for the businesses using them. The main reasons this happens is a lack of education and understanding about the actual medium. In the past, the prerequisites for billboard painters and truck lettering artists were years of study and apprenticeships. Mastering the craft is a bit easier today, since the primary barrier to entry is acquiring the cash to buy a large format digital printer. So, while a sign or wrap company may be brilliant at installing wraps, it may lack experience in the study of effective outdoor advertising.

The following rules can help you better understand the fundamentals for designing a vehicle wrap that’s effective. Whether you are a designer hoping to improve your layouts or a small business owner trying to gain market share, these fleet branding ideas will help you get the maximum impact and return on investment for your outdoor vehicle advertising programs.

Rule #1: Start With A Great Brand

One reason so many wraps fail is because the business has a poor brand identity and logo. The brand should always be the primary message for a vehicle wrap, unless you have national brand recognition. For small businesses trying to make an impact in their communities, the message is always about the brand. Starting with a poor brand means you’ve failed before you’ve begun—by wasting money on a wrap and missing a huge marketing opportunity.

KickCharge Creative generally designs wraps only for clients whose brands we’ve created because most companies’ existing brands are terrible. What is surprising is that we are usually the first ones to tell them. Perhaps other sign companies never mention brand problems because they don’t want to lose the wrap job. Not KickCharge. If a company won’t change its poor brand, we won’t design its wrap. Clients typically appreciate our honesty because we only have their best interests in mind. We don’t want to be responsible for wasting your money trying to work with a brand that has no business being on a wrap. The brand is the message. Period.

Rule #2: Don’t Use Photos

Van wraps that use photos are rarely effective. Plus, I’d argue that any wrap that uses a photo could have been designed more effectively without one. A photo is not a brand identity; it doesn’t connect the audience with the business name. Maybe it tells the viewer what the company does, but so should a good brand.

Take the usual examples, such as an HVAC contractor with a picture of an air conditioner on its truck. Great. Now I know you do air conditioning, but I don’t know who you are—because I only have 2.5 seconds to view the message.

Or consider the contractor using a picture of a house. It doesn’t communicate whether you are a siding company, a roofing contractor, a window installer, a power washer, a landscaper or an electrician. After I’ve spent my 2.5 seconds noticing the house photo, your brand message is lost amid all of the other things trying to grab my attention.
The best truck wrap design ideas focus on powerful brand integration. National chains have an easier time using photography because, once again, their brand is already known. As a result, their message need not be 100% focused on conveying it. Small businesses don’t have this luxury.

Rule #3: Limit Your Copy

A good wrap only needs about three or four things: strong brand implementation, a tagline, a web address and maybe a phone number. Bulleted lists have no place on a vehicle. Would you rather list 10 things no one remembers or provide one or two memorable takeaways? Think of it this way: If this truck were a billboard, how much copy would be on it? Billboards and vehicle advertising face similar challenges. Therefore, they should employ similar strategies. If you prioritize your copy, it will be more effective. In general, the hierarchy should always be:

  1. Brand
  2. Tagline
  3. Website URL
  4. Phone number

Rule #4: Design to Stand Out, Not Fit In

Contrary to popular belief, van graphic design ideas that incorporate diamond plate, carbon fiber or tribal flames are not effective. By eliminating fills, noisy backgrounds, photos, bevels and glows, you’ll be on your way to designing a wrap that actually stands out. The wrap market is littered with visual noise. The ones with impact are the wraps we can actually read and remember; they can’t help but stand out among the visual clutter. KickCharge vehicle wrap designs are innovative simply because they are unlike what everyone else seems to be doing. That’s why they stand out.

Rule #5: Simple and Obvious is Good

If the viewer needs to work too hard to figure out the primary brand messaging, it’s a lost opportunity. Vehicle advertising isn’t like print collateral, where the viewer can stop, absorb the advertising and try to understand the message. Choose one, primary takeaway you’re hoping to communicate to the viewer. Is it obvious? Or is it lost in the imagery? Distance legibility is, of course, a primary concern. You have very limited time to notice, understand and remember your brand and message.

Before & After Gallery Demonstrates the Differences

Perhaps the most straightforward way to see how a brand-focused vehicle wrap is more effective is to compare before and after images side-by-side. Visit our Before & After gallery for several powerful examples of weak designs transformed into vehicle advertising that does the job so much better.

Before Absolute Airflow came to KickCharge, its vans contained a big no-no: a bulleted list. Other text on the trucks was too small to be legible from any distance.

There was a lot happening on the Garage Floor Company vehicle wrap before KickCharge Creative rebranded the company. It was nearly impossible to read the company’s actual name. Plus, the color palate and design were uninspired.

A better brand makes all marketing work better. Refer to a brand implementation checklist for tips on where and how to implement new branding. Remember that when it comes to effective, memorable marketing, consistency is key.

Choosing the Right Canvas

The best trucks to wrap for advertising have an open canvas with minimal obstructions that would interrupt the design. We prefer the Ford Transit Mid Roof; its shape is ideally suited for most logos, and since the license plate is on the bumper, it does not obscure any of the available design space on the doors. The Dodge Promaster, Chevy Express, Nissan and Mercedes Sprinter have the license plate on the rear door.

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