Tips for Effective Vehicle Wrap Design
Based on the huge number of poorly designed vehicle wraps on the road today it would be easy to think that coming up with a simple, easily read message is beyond many designers’ capabilities. Yet, once the fundamentals of what building a good wrap entails are understood, designing a good wrap becomes much easier.
Sadly, most wraps seen today fail abysmally as an advertising method, not because the concept is bad, but because the designs fail to use proper branding and easy-to-read messaging. These badly designed vehicle wraps are both a waste of time and money for the businesses deploying them. Vehicle wrapping is a relatively new medium compared to billboard, bus and truck advertising, so it may well come down to lack of understanding and education on the part of the designers. So while wrap or sign companies may have mastered the skill of installing wraps, their knowledge and experience of vehicle wrap advertising may be sorely lacking.
The following car wrap guide will give you a better understanding of the elements of a good wrap and what it takes to design one that is highly effective and well worth the expense. These tips are equally helpful to designers looking for layout advice and to business owners looking to use this medium to gain market share. The ultimate goal of a good wrap is to have maximum impact and provide a good return on investment.
How many times have you heard the message “Branding is everything?” Successful companies understand this very well. When a business has a poor logo and brand identity, using vehicle advertising is almost always destined to fail. As the brand is the primary message for a vehicle wrap, unless you have a brand that is widely recognized, you may well be wasting good money on a vehicle wrap. Yet many small businesses use this medium to try to gain recognition, starting in their own community. It can be an effective method provided your logo is well designed and memorable.
As a general rule it is easier to design an effective advertising wrap for a client whose brand we have created. We have been approached by many companies whose existing brands are terrible. Some will not entertain the idea of changing it, and so we are unable to help them. Others are surprised but appreciative of our candor, and clearly see that we are only telling them their brand is lacking because we are looking out for their best interests. Vehicle wrap designs don’t come cheap but do provide a great return on investment when done properly, and so I feel it is a waste of time and money putting a terrible brand on a vehicle wrap. Other sign companies may do so because they need the job, but to me the brand IS the message, period.
While many sign makers would disagree with me, I have yet to see many effective vehicle wraps that use photos. I believe that a photo does nothing to connect me with a business name and certainly is not a brand identity. It may tell me what a company does, but so will a good brand. In fact, I feel strongly that any wrap that incorporates a photo had the potential to be even more effectively done without one.
Let’s use an example to demonstrate my point. Say you’re an HVAC contractor and have a photo of an air conditioner included in your wrap. Okay, so you make it obvious that you do air conditioning. I get that part, but who are you? In the 2.5 seconds I have to view your message all I saw was the air conditioner image. Say instead of an air conditioner you have a photo of a house in your wrap. I see the house but I have no idea whether you are a roofing company, a siding company, a real estate agent, a landscaper or just what you are! ALL I see is the house because that is the most obvious element. After your vehicle has gone by, I am still none the wiser as to what you do or who you are.
Perhaps a photo would be effective on larger units such as trailers and box trucks, but I still strongly believe that by focusing on the brand you will get a better result. Nationwide chains can use photos effectively because they already have the brand recognition. Small businesses do not have that kind of advertising impact.
Outstanding design does not mean including brightly colored tribal flames or shiny diamond plate to make your wrap stand out from the crowd. On the contrary, simplicity is the key. A wrap design that stands out doesn’t have busy backgrounds, photos, fills or any other distracting elements. These elements are nothing but visual noise, and there are enough wraps on the roads today that are visually unappealing because they incorporate those elements into their designs.
When you see a wrap that is easy to read and memorable, it has an impact on you and blocks out all the visual clutter around it. That strikes me as being so ironic. Our vehicle wrap designs are considered innovative simply because everyone else is doing the same old thing, and as a result ours stand out from all others.
If it takes too much effort to try and figure out the brand message, the opportunity to impact the viewer is lost. Vehicle wrap design has a challenge that print design doesn’t have, as the viewer can take the time to absorb the printed message. Think about that one primary message you want to get across to the viewer. What is it and does the wrap communicate it effectively? Does the message get lost in the imagery? Bear in mind that your wrap will often be viewed from a distance, so legibility is vital. With the mere 2.5 seconds you have available to grab the attention of the viewer you must have a wrap design that displays your brand and clearly communicates your message in a way that will have an impact and be memorable.
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