Not sure what goes into design the best truck wraps? Here’s some tips.

UPDATED Sept. 29, 2020

If you examined most vehicle wrap designs on the road today, you’d think the concept of designing a simple, easy-to-read message was difficult to understand. It’s really not, once you understand the fundamental vehicle branding tips.

The characteristics of the best vehicle advertising—designs that use proper branding and easy-to-discern messaging—are rarely employed on most vehicle wraps you see on the road today. This explains why many wraps are failures from an advertising standpoint, and sadly a wasted opportunity for the businesses deploying them. This can be primarily attributed to 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

hvac truck wrap for Zen Air Heating & Cooling

New brand development and fleet branding for Zen Air Heating & Cooling in Georgia

One reason that so many wraps fail from a marketing perspective 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 companies’ existing brands often 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 candor 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 implemented on a wrap. The brand is the message, period.

Rule #2: Don’t Use Photos

Few creative van wraps that use photos are effective, and 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 amidst 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, so their message need not be 100% focused on conveying it. Small businesses don’t have this luxury.

The best logos make for the best truck wraps as illustrated by this HVAC company in Spartanburg, SC.

The best logos make for the best truck wraps as illustrated by this HVAC company in Spartanburg, SC.

Rule #3: Limit Your Advertising Copy

There are only three or four things a good wrap needs: strong brand implementation, a tagline, a web address and maybe a phone number. Bulleted lists have no place on a vehicle. This isn’t the Yellow Pages. Would you rather list 10 things no one remembers or convey 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 so 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.

One of our best vehicle wraps for a heating and air conditioning company utilizing retro branding and logo design.

One of our best vehicle wraps for a heating and air conditioning company utilizing retro branding and logo design.

Rule #5: Simple and Obvious is Good

If the viewer needs to work too hard to figure out the primary brand messaging, it’s an opportunity lost. 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 for the view to notice, understand and remember your brand and message.

Before & After Gallery Demonstrates the Differences

Perhaps the most straight-forward 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 works.

The Super Plumber’s fleet of white vans had too many words, a small, poorly rendered logo, multiple phone numbers and meaningless social media and credit card logos.

plumbing truck wrap for the super plumber

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

Absolute Airflow

hvac truck wrap for Absolute Airflow

There was a lot happening on the Fox & Sons vehicle wrap before KickCharge Creative rebranded the company. The busy design and color scheme made the words difficult to see, and it made no brand promise.

plumbing and hvac truck wrap for Fox

A better brand makes all marketing work better. Refer to this brand implementation checklist for tips on where and how to implement new branding. Consistency is key to effective marketing.

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 the license plate is on the bumper, so 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.