Good design is vital, but what does it mean, and how can you achieve it?

Simple, clear and colourful branding across your business has long been regarded as a key factor in appearing professional. It’s estimated that in one of the UK’s eight largest cities, your van is seen by up to 3,000 people an hour. Although some long-running businesses of all sizes with established customer bases may not feel the need to advertise, it pays to at least show your company logo, if not your contact details. Many clients may even be a little perturbed if their contractor turns up in a plain van. When placed side-by-side with a branded van proudly displaying company signage, it’s not hard to see why.

All of this means that a good, strong design for your company vehicle’s graphics and sign-writing is paramount. There are two main options for vehicle signage: vinyl wraps or signwriting. Each of them offers their own advantages and downsides, but both offer a highly cost-effective form of marketing on a space that you already own, lasting up to five years and thus costing very little per day. In this article, we’ll look at both of these options and the scope for achieving good design with each one, as well as what might constitute a ‘good design’ for your business.

Choices: signwriting or vinyl wrapping

Signwriting used to mean exactly that – writing on the side of the van with a paintbrush – but things have moved on since then. Modern signwriting generally involves using adhesive to fix stencilled vinyl lettering onto the surface of the vehicle. The use of a stencil or machine to cut the lettering guarantees a neat and accurate result, especially important if you plan to stick the same words in multiple places, such as the side, rear doors and bonnet of the van.

Vinyl wrapping involves stretching a piece of vinyl over the surface of your vehicle. The whole vehicle can be covered if necessary, but there is also the option of a partial vehicle wrap, covering perhaps just the bonnet or rear doors.

Vinyl wrapping is extremely versatile. In addition to simple logos, trading names and contact details, complex graphics can be printed onto the vinyl, allowing for limitless design potential. The colour of the whole vehicle can be changed to match your business or corporate colour scheme, with the added benefit of being entirely and easily removable, doing no damage to the paintwork underneath.

Pros and cons

These two methods produce very different signage solutions and carry differing costs. Ultimately, which method you choose will depend on the finished look that you want to achieve. Basic vinyl signwriting in one solid colour will be cheapest. Adhesive vinyl lettering is perfectly adequate for a trading name, slogan, contact details and even a simple logo.

Many businesses will probably already have logos, but for those considering van signage as part of a company-wide re-brand, one long-standing rule of good design is that a logo should be identifiable even in black and white. This is so that it still serves its purpose when photocopied or sent on letterheads, but this also makes it possible to produce the logo from one sheet of solid colour vinyl by simply stencilling the logo and cutting it out.

Even with a solution as simple as vinyl signwriting, however, it is wise to consult a professional for advice, as your van surface probably includes creases and panel gaps which will have to be factored in to the design. Consider your adhesive carefully as well – all vinyl lettering is removable, but how easy that job will be and the amount of residue left behind depends on your choice.

Vinyl wraps, on the other hand, can create truly eye-catching and memorable looks. These wraps are manufactured by printing onto the vinyl and so can incorporate patterns, photography, eye-catching graphics and different colours to help your lettering stand out. Wrapping is also highly scalable, as designs are produced with software by professionals, and so can be guaranteed to appear consistent when applied across a fleet of vehicles.

One factor affecting the quality of the finished design is the type of vinyl used. For longer term applications of three to five years, higher quality vinyl will be necessary to preserve the professional appearance of the design. Temporary wraps can be expected to last a year or so, making them ideal for short-term marketing promotions.

How to achieve impact in your design

Think of the most memorable logos you’ve seen – British Rail, the Royal Mail and the NHS. These are all undeniably examples of good design and have stood the test of time. And what do they have in common? A simplicity that works due to the philosophy of ‘less is more’. Bright colours are advisable to draw attention, and graphics can help make your sign more memorable, but try to avoid excessive clutter, or you risk your message being lost in a flurry of noise.

Even small businesses should consider their brand positioning – what does your signage say about you? If you aim yourself at the budget market, then a well-designed sign will communicate this at a glance by appearing simple and not over-done. A rural-based family business would also probably want to avoid appearing too flashy.

Likewise, the use of ‘premium’ colours such as black, red and gold along with fancy fonts can suggest to customers that your business is aimed at high-end, high quality work for those willing to pay more. Complex printed graphics give an aura of corporate professionalism, but can turn away customers who seek the ‘personal touch’.

Whatever your aims, here at the Vehicle Sign Writing we have the professional expertise to help guide you to a solution that will deliver an excellent return on investment and leave your customers talking about your snazzy signage with everyone they encounter.

image of - Vehicle signwriting using flat cut vinyl - Bagelman