A Lesson in Food Truck Design: How Not To Suck

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  • 24 Jan 2017
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  • webbedgem

Today I want to talk about something that can be an incredibly significant factor in your food truck business’ success or failure, and that is … your wrap. If you’re completely new to the industry you may not be familiar with the term “wrap” and that’s totally ok! Today we’re going to talk a lot about wraps, so let’s get the definition out of the way. A “wrap” is the vinyl decal that covers your food truck and is the essence of the design of your truck.

Not all food trucks are wrapped. Some are spray-painted or have a few individual decals on the truck, but for most of you starting a food truck business, you’ll probably want to get your truck wrapped. But before the wrapping process you need a design, so today I want to cover three different ways to achieve a design you love that also meets your budget.

Recently I’ve been involved in planning and designing a number of wraps, and during this process I’ve learned a lot of great new information that I want to share with you.

My biggest, and currently ongoing, project has been the redesign of my family’s food truck fleet at Moody’s. Our company has been around since 1926, and to be honest, some of our trucks looked like they had been there from the beginning, so we wanted to do a complete redesign of the fleet. We wanted to change our image from an antiquated “lunch service” to trendy, modern “food trucks.”  To do this we hired an awesome designer from Cool Grey Matter and worked together over the course of about 3 months to finally come to a design everyone agreed upon. The end result was totally worth the effort.

As you can see above, it’s an incredible improvement over our previous design. When working with a professional designer, you’re sure to get a high quality design, but it’s the most expensive option by far.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the DIY method. I also have some experience with this method. In the summer of 2012 we launched Tortally Tasty, a gourmet torta truck. Because we were rushed to get the truck ready before the massive food truck gathering at the Del Mar Fair, we decided to go with the quick and dirty method.  For the Tortally Tasty design I sketched out what I had in mind, found images that matched my idea on istockphoto.com and shutterstock.com and had our friend Ben at Custom Auto Wraps piece the images together to create our design. (If you’re in the San Diego area, I highly recommend using Custom Auto Wraps. Ben and John are both very nice to work with, and they do a very professional job. We’ve now had about 20 trucks wrapped by them, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. And no, I’m not getting paid to say that.)

The end result of our DIY attempt was satisfactory, though nothing thoroughly impressive. As you can see below, we achieved something that looks decent and is bright enough to stand out, though it isn’t very memorable.

So, creating your own food truck design is quickest and the cheapest option, though the result may or may not be what you truly want. Though I suppose that depends on your own style and taste. Personally, I wish I would have spent a little more time designing Tortally Tasty, but what’s done is done.

The final option I want to present to you is somewhere in between hiring a professional designer and doing it yourself. This is the online design contest option. For our most recent food truck, the Slider House, I chose to go through designcontest.com. If you haven’t heard of this before, designcontest.com is a website where you can post a design job, set a reward amount, and designers will submit designs to compete for your reward.

For the Slider House, I posted a job on designcontest.com explaining that I was looking for a food truck design. I posted the template of the truck (you can get my template here) that they could use to layout their design, and I used lots of descriptive adjectives to explain the look and feel I wanted to achieve. I also posted links to examples of different typography I liked and restaurants that had a similar style as what I was going for.

Over the course of 9 days, roughly 30 unique designs were submitted. As I weeded out the ones that didn’t line up with my vision, I ended up working closely with one particular designer and came up with what you see below.

After receiving the design above, I played around with the colors myself and came up with a warmer color scheme. I liked the brown design, but warmer colors are typically better in the food industry so we decided to switch it up a bit. Here’s the final result below.

I’m super happy with the result, and we got a great design for $300. That may sound like a lot, but considering we spent about 10 times that on the Moody’s design, it’s a steal. It’s also cool working with designcontest.com because you get so many unique design options out of it.

If you do decide to go the designcontest.com route, I have a few tips for getting the most out of your experience.

  1. First of all, Set whatever prize amount you’re comfortable with, but know that the higher the reward, the more entries (and higher quality entries) you’ll receive.
  2. Second, you’ll get an option to make the entries hidden to other designers. DO THIS. It’s worth the extra couple bucks. It spurs so much more creativity and prevents any of the designs from looking alike.
  3. Lastly, be super specific about what you want. I know it can be hard to articulate what you want, but think about how much harder it is for the designers to read your mind. You’ll be so much happier with the result if you can be specific about what you want.

So those are my three options for how to get a food truck design on any budget.  I’ve got so much more I want to discuss on the issue of getting your truck designed and wrapped, and I’m really excited to delve into branding but I think that I’ll save that for my next post.

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of my series on food truck wrap design and branding. If you’re considering starting a food truck and would like to receive loads of great information and resources on how to get started, enter your email below to subscribe.

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