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Written by Daniel Lummis

Science Behind Car Wrap Design

As we have previously stated in our blog post, on why consistency is important in fleet graphics, vehicle wraps are amongst the most effective ways to advertise your company. But that’s only the case if the design on your vehicle does its job. There are so many cars around with subpar designs in terms of visibility. They may look great, but no one can tell what the company is or what they do, all because of less than optimal design decisions. The average vehicle is seen only for a few seconds at a time, so placing the right elements in the right place is a detriment to a successful vehicle wrap. Too much information or bad placement will lose your company potential leads and new clients.

When our in-house designers take care of your Perth car wraps, they consider every little detail, and with years of experience, they know the pitfalls of wrap design. With that in mind, we decided to put together some information in regard to design. Essentially a small list touching on the reasoning behind certain design decisions using science and knowing how people are wired. This list should help anyone embarking on a vehicle wrap design make the right choices with their car.

  1. Eye Movement. What do people notice first?

When looking at a page, most people will scan the paper top-left to bottom-right. Therefore, on a page your most important information, usually in the form of a logo, needs to be at the top-left so it’s the first thing people see. This principle can be incorporated in designing for car wraps as well, but not all cars have sufficient spaces for a logo at the top-left. With that in mind, we have put together the below images to show where the optimal logo placements are, when tracking line of sight.

 

 

As can be learnt from the above, it’s fairly straight forward on these vehicles when just considering line of sight. Even if vehicles are a little different from one side to the other, the optimal placing usually falls in similar spots. Even if it doesn’t, we believe it’s important to keep the layout of the car the similar on both sides. This gives a sense of cohesion to the design, and as an overall, will make the design look professional and less messy. So, if you’ve ever wondered why your designer insisted on that particular placement for your logo, the above is a likely reason.

If you do decide to ignore these spots for placing your logo, make sure you incorporate an element in your design to help attract people’s eye to what’s important. Read on for more information.

  1. Using shapes to guide line of sight.

In the previous section we spoke about line of sight. As important as it is to incorporate line of sight into your design, it’s interesting to know that you can guide people’s eyes towards what you want them to see. A good way to do this is using shapes.

The reason for this is simple: people recognise shapes, and our eyes are often drawn to the things we recognise. It’s that part of our brain responsible for pattern recognition. You may have never seen a particular logo before, but you have definitely seen the circle, arrow or triangle that brings your attention to it. Our eyes are hard-wired to snap to things that our brain comprehends as familiar. Most people will still view your car with the basic line of sight rules, but a well-placed shape can turn an eye to a thing that isn’t necessarily in an optimal space. This trick is especially useful on vehicles with more tricky layouts. Shapes can be used to highlight everything from text to images, whatever is important in your design.

As an additional bonus to this section, we’d like to let you in on a small trick using images of people. It’s a simple fact that us humans are hard-wired to focus on eyes, and if you can place images of people looking at the thing you want your potential client to see, their gaze will automatically follow the person in the image’s line of sight. Example: A person looking at a logo will make the logo more visible, even if it is located in a less desirable spot.

 

 

  1. Colour science and how to catch people’s attention

Have you ever sat down and thought about what colours you notice first? Most people haven’t. But it’s interesting to note that some colours are far more visible than others.

The colour red is the most visible of all. This is because it produces the longest wavelengths.

  • Violet: 380–450 nm (688–789 THz frequency)
  • Blue: 450–495 nm.
  • Green: 495–570 nm.
  • Yellow: 570–590 nm.
  • Orange: 590–620 nm.
  • Red: 620–750 nm (400–484 THz frequency)

With that in mind, we should just make all our car wraps red, right? Well no. That would be stressful to all of us. The visibility of red makes it a high stress colour, so when using red it’s important to balance it with something a little less powerful. White, for example, is often used alongside red to soften the impact. That way the colour red will help catch the attention of people, but along with a calmer colour, it won’t overpower the message. Now it can be argued that white is not a colour because it doesn’t produce a wavelength, but for the colour red in particular, whites and blacks are the best colours to reduce its impact and make for a more pleasing design.

High impact colours include: Red, yellow, orange, pink and high vis fluro colours.

You might look at that list and think, but my logo is blue, does that mean I won’t be noticed? That’s not necessarily the case. High impact colours are not the be all end all, and a good design will often catch attention, even if it doesn’t include one of those colours. The all-out importance is to portray the right things, using the right mix of colours. All colours have a different meaning etched into our collective brains. The mix of red and yellow, instantly makes associate with cheap products and sales. This is because both red and yellow are high impact colours and will induce a sense of urgency into the person perceiving it. Red on its own is known to represent passion, anger, excitement, life and love and is often seen in association with food brands and in the entertainment industry. Blues, on the other hand, are considered calming because they are low on the spectrum. The colour is associated with Professionalism, Authority, health, loyalty and trust. The colour blue can often be found in industries like plumbing, IT, wellbeing, such as physiotherapy, and bedding. The colour, or non-colour, black is often seen as high-end. It represents authority, boldness, elegance and mystery. Many high-end fashion brands incorporate a black logo into their branding.

Example: if you’re a high-end producer of wines, bright reds or blues might not be the right colour combination for your business. It’s important the colours you choose are not allowed to overshadow the message you’re trying to send. For a high-end brand producer of wines, you’re better off choosing colours that complement what you do. In this case, earthy colours would be a good choice. Browns, greens, perhaps some black and white, and if you’re wanting to capitalise on the high visibility colours, perhaps throw in an earthy orange or a dark red or even burgundy. Using these colours will help people associate you with nature and the sweeping landscapes of wineries. If your wine company is more playful and fun, you can incorporate brighter colours into the design, but keep in mind, that whatever colours you choose will reflect on how people view your company.

The trick is to find a combination of colours and elements that will draw people’s attention to your car, but never overshadow the message you’re trying to put forward.

  1. The Golden ratio and how it works on cars as well as everything else.

Those who took math in high school will know a thing or two about the golden ratio, and if not, we know you’ve seen the image below at least once or twice in your lifetime.

 

 

The golden ration is commonly found in nature and in good design. It’s the mathematical formula for creating visually pleasing designs. Not only for cars, but for everything from business cards to the pyramids.

The golden ration also called phi is what in mathematics is called an irrational number, meaning that its terms go on forever after the decimal point without repetition. Phi = 1.6180339887…

It’s of course not necessary to know of phi and its mathematical origins to create good designs, but it helps us understand why good design is good. Using phi in design comes natural to most people. In the end, it’s all about creating visually pleasing aesthetics using the visual weight of whatever canvas you’re working on.

In the phi graphic above, it shows how weight should be distributed across your visual surface. With car wraps, the weight of the canvas can be impacted by the design of the car itself, but being able to use this graphic as a guide it can help you distribute the visual weight of your graphics in the most aesthetically pleasing way.

 

 

The above graphic shows the golden ratio over a van. The placement of the spiral tells you that your most heavy graphics elements should be at the back of the van and the lighter elements towards the front. When playing with designs, it’s always important to consider how your graphics are weighted. A well-balanced design, using the overall rules of the Golden Ratio are often the most pleasing and most effective way to get your message across. An unbalanced design can cause potential clients to get confused, and the base message is easily lost.

  1. Too much information. Are you confusing your target audience?

Are you excited about your company? Of course you are, as you should be, and you want the world to know everything about what you do. But before you write an essay and put it on your vehicle, think about what that will achieve. The last thing you want is for people to not grasp what you do because they were drowned in information.

We usually recommend only using your logo, contact information, website, potentially a tagline and a supporting graphic. The best outcome is if you can convey what your company does with the name and graphic alone; since that is usually the only part of your vehicle people have time to register.

If you want bullet points on your car, that can be good if your company does a variety of things but try to keep them to a minimum. We recommend no more than six, especially on a regular passenger car where you only have a small amount of space to work with. Six bullet points are just enough for people to scan while on the go, giving them a hint of what you do.

If you do go with a lot of text, try to place it in a way that makes it less confusing for your potential clients. You don’t want their eyeballs rolling in their heads trying to work out where to look. In this case, using line of sight is a great way to figure out where to put what text. Usually a secondary spot is the best for these, as we still want our company branding to be the thing that catches people’s attention first.

As for contact details, most people won’t remember them by the time they stop long enough to write it down, but it’s still a good idea to have on your car for that foot traffic you will inevitably receive when parked. This means contact details are usually placed in a secondary or tertiary spot, depending on what other information is portrayed on the vehicle. The important thing is to capture people’s attention in as short amount of time as possible. So don’t put your phone number in the first place people will look. If what you do catches their interest, they will look further for the information they want.

Keep it simple. That’s really the most important take away you should get from this.

See below for one of our designs where we’ve kept it super simple.

 

 

For this vehicle wrap, we decided to focus on the name of the company and incorporate their old Moose graphic into the doors for the secondary logo placement. We wanted a swooping graphic to complement the hard-line fonts. We decided to add his operation numbers towards the front end of the vehicle. Since these are not important in any other way than our client telling people he is qualified, they were relegated out of the way to not take too much focus from the design.

This car needs nothing else. It’s all in the name. No one who sees this wrap will have any doubts as to what they just drove past and what the owner of the car does for a living. We could have added bullet points to the middle of the car, and design principles listed in this blog would have allowed that, but we decided it was not needed for this particular design, so we opted to leave all the extra bits off and just let the design speak for itself.

  1. Fonts and how legible they are on your car.

Choosing the right font for your logo is important. As with colours, the type of font will usually have an impact on how people view your company. But we’re not talking about logo design as that’s a different subject for a different post, instead we want to talk about Vehicle wraps. The most important thing on a vehicle wrap is visibility and legibility. But with that in mind, the fonts chosen still must go with the overall branding of your company. If the fonts you choose are legible, but look out of place with your logo, then you’ve chosen the wrong font. On the other side of the coin, if the fonts fit the style of the logo, but are illegible, then you’ve chosen the wrong font as well.

Swirly fonts are usually harder to read than normal fonts. This is easier to read than this  Both those fonts are written at the same font size and are equally wide. But one is far easier to read than the other. That doesn’t mean you can’t use more dynamic fonts, but what we are trying to say, is asses how easy the font you chose is to read for the people who pass your vehicle.

We suggest that a sans serif font is the best choice for vehicle wraps, especially if you’re adding smaller, bullet point text. Sans serif fonts keeps your message free of distractions and allows your potential client to gather the information they need in the little time they have.

  1. Using the curves of the car to create stunning visuals.

The surfaces on your car aren’t flat. Keep this in mind when designing. Incorporate the recesses of your car into your ideas and utilise their impact to make your design pop.

Don’t let your text or logo disappear or get stretched in the wrong places. This will hamper the visibility of your wrap and might lose you potential clients.

Think about where your joins are and as much as possible avoid text over those joins. If half a letter disappears into the door opening, is your message lost? Perhaps a curve in just the right place on your design works well with a curve on the car and will help accentuate the important bits of your design. Does placing the logo on a specific spot make it stand out more because of the natural lines of the car? Or does it completely disappear in another spot? Don’t rely only on vehicle templates, especially if you aren’t familiar with vehicle wrap designs. It helps to see the car in person to know where not to put certain information.

Every angle, space and curve must be considered in the design stage. Ignoring these elements can easily result in a wrap design which isn’t easy on the eye, or far too confusing for your potential customers.

If you want to know more or are thinking of having us help you with a design for your vehicle wrap, call our sales rep today for a quote. We love car wraps and are always excited for new challenges.

Click here for more information on car wrap prices from Signarama Joondalup

 

 

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