December 2012

What You Need to Know About Vehicle Graphics

by Brittni Rubin, Assistant Editor

In recent years, fleet owners and transit agencies have creatively utilized vehicle graphics to both generate revenue and establish a rapport with their communities. Local posters and commercial advertisements have transformed into full train wraps, ceiling graphics, digital signs, side panels and more.

There are many companies today that provide a full service deal for customers, helping with every step of production from logo design to installation. METRO Magazine spoke with two companies to find out how the creative process works as well as get their take on transit signage trends and its 21st Century significance.

Turbo Images
According to Esther Morissette, VP, marketing and public relations, for Turbo Images, the Canada-based company offers fleet graphics solutions “from A to Z.” Included are design services, project guidance, printing, and installation and removal services to customers across North America. They house the equipment to produce anything from electronically cut graphic film to digital and screen printing.

Turbo Images has its own design firm, which is responsible for assisting the company’s clientele in the design and implementation of custom graphics. While Turbo has about 55 employees, five are fleet graphic specialized designers. The company works with clients who need new branding or signage, in addition to clients who have already-designed materials.

Larger fleet companies like Greyhound have their own corporate marketing firm that designs all of their graphics. At that time, says Morissette, Turbo Images will take the pre-made design and produce a technical blueprint that will be outputted for the production of the signage.

“We’ll work with the client’s marketing firm to finalize the technical aspect of the templates and the vehicle for the design they provide us,” says Morissette.

After, the materials then go into print and are subsequently installed. When vehicle units are refurbished, Turbo is often contracted simply to remove previous graphics and install new ones.

If clients don’t provide their own materials, Turbo works directly with fleet owners to create a design.

“We use the service and expertise of our design team we have here, communicate with them, and then, the design process starts,” says Morissette. “We’re like a marketing firm within a firm.”

After first determining the customer’s needs and how much ad coverage they want to have, there’s a routine exchange of questions to pinpoint exactly what they want to portray on their fleet.

Questions clients should ponder before approaching a company such as Turbo include: What’s the purpose of branding the fleet? Is it for in-house or community advertisement or to generate revenue by selling space? What’s the budget? What’s the quantity of graphics your company hopes to produce over time? Which type of graphic is best for your market? How often do the vehicles get damaged? Do you have a solution in place for replacing parts and graphics?

On Turbo’s end, according to Morissette, the customer’s needs are first reviewed, and then, the designing process begins. There’s usually a back-and-forth until both parties agree upon a final layout. The contract is then signed, and the design goes into print. The last stage is shipment and installation.

Back-and-forth time varies from client to client.

“It all depends on how fast we get to the exact image a customer has in mind,” says Morissette. “We have to uncover what they envision.”

The company has a network of installers across the U.S. and Canada. Individuals are sub-contracted and certified to be proficient in Turbo’s products, therefore, making them authorized Turbo installers. Additionally, Turbo has a graphics parts reordering system online for when graphics get damaged.

“We’re first a service company, then we print and install,” says Morissette.

Currently, the biggest trend in the industry, according to Morissette, is the creative way transit agencies and fleet owners are selling space for advertising. Both in the private and public transportation realm, the number of fully wrapped vehicles is increasing.

In that vein, one of Turbo’s recent projects consisted of fully wrapping Greyhound buses with a design that promoted the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“Large vehicles on the road are moving billboards, and to wrap a coach and buy a space on the coach for advertising is much less expensive than buying six major billboards on a major highway,” says Morissette. “That’s why it is becoming more and more popular.”

Turbo Images also works with 3M, one of the largest manufacturers of film for fleet graphics in the industry.

“They constantly stay in tune with the market needs and are constantly evolving their product to better the products we offer,” says Morissette.


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