How to Start a Food Truck 21: Create a Logo and Truck Design

This month on “How to Start a Food Truck, our content focuses on helping you make the best first impression possible on your customers. We kicked off Unit 6 last week with an important lesson on establishing your food truck’s brand. Today, we’re going to show you how to get a killer logo and truck design that will grab customers’ attention from the street.

Your logo and the design of your truck will always be some of the very first things customers notice about you. Whether you’re serving up sandwiches to downtown office workers or dishing up comfort food at the state fair, a bold logo and a bright graphic wrap will draw attention to your truck and help you stand out from the crowd. Your designs should be eye-catching, memorable, and inviting—enticing customers to take an extra minute to learn what your truck has to offer and giving them something to remember after they’ve moved on.

Let’s take a closer look at what a great logo and truck design can do for your food truck business.

Why Design Matters

Picture this: You’re walking through a food truck festival, and you see four trucks lined up along the very first street. One of them is a bright, colorful food truck with big graphics and an appealing cartoon character on the sides and a giant, professionally printed menu board next to the ordering window. Two of them have pretty basic designs—one is plain red with the truck’s name printed in big, black script letters across the side and the other is a blue truck with the name in blocky, green letters. The last one is a sort of old-looking white truck with a big banner announcing the truck’s name above the ordering window and some whiteboards with handwritten daily specials sitting near it.

Based on first impressions alone, which one are you going to choose?

If you’re like most people, the truck with the big pictures on the sides and the professionally printed menu board is going to catch your eye first. You’ll probably also check out the plain colored trucks to see what they have to offer, but what about the last truck—the one that’s sort of hard to distinguish from a work van or supply truck? Well, they’re going to have to have some pretty incredible-sounding dishes (along with some great smells wafting from their window and a line of people waiting to order) to really catch your attention.

That’s not to say that plain trucks don’t have delicious food or that talented food truck chefs can’t succeed without the fancy wraps and graphics. But, let’s be honest—when we’re choosing a meal or evaluating a new business, we judge the books by their covers. Every time a potential customer walks by and sees your truck, you have no more than a few seconds to make some kind of impression that will make him or her pause and see what you have to offer. While a strong design might not overpower a customer’s preference for another type of cuisine, it can get people thinking about what’s on your menu before they’ve even seen what anyone else is selling. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your truck stands out from the crowd in any way that you can. An appealing, eye-catching logo and a professional truck design are a couple of the easiest ways to do that.

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Finding a Great Designer

Now, you’ve been doing a lot of the work yourself so far as you’ve been learning how to start a food truck, handling everything from creating your recipes to writing a business plan to establishing a brand. But you’re a culinary professional, not a designer—so we don’t expect you to come up with these design assets on your own. When it comes to the design of your logo and truck wrap, it’s time to bring in a third party.

Here are a few places to turn for help when you need some awesome art for your truck:

  • Hire a Professional ($$-$$$): Though doing so will require an upfront investment, hiring a professional is probably the easiest way to find great artwork for your truck. Search for a graphic designer who can create a memorable logo that evokes the spirit of your brand, and work with a company that does custom truck wraps to get that image or other artwork printed on your truck. Check out sites like Custom Vehicle Wraps, Wraps1, or our friends at Kitchens on Wheels to learn more about food truck wrapping options.
  • Hire an Amateur ($-$$): If you’re looking to cut costs on your art design, consider hiring a design student or young artist to develop a logo or other imagery for your food truck. Designers who are just getting started in the industry may be willing to work for less in order to get more experience, especially if you allow them to use the finished artwork in their portfolios. Contact local universities in your area or search Craigslist to get in touch with young artists who may be able to make your brand come to life.
  • Ask a Friend ($-$$): Have a friend who’s an art or design wiz? Ask around and see if any of your friends would be willing to put together a few sketches or concepts for you. Remember, though—good design work is time-consuming, and you shouldn’t expect someone to do it for free. Be sure to thank anyone who volunteers their time profusely and offer some form of payment (such as an exchange of services like a small catered party, or good old fashioned cash!).
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Coordinating Your Design with Your Brand

Once you find a designer you’re comfortable working with, you should spend some time discussing your vision and your brand with him or her so that you and the artist are on the same page about what you’re looking for. If you completed Lesson 20 and the free branding workbook from Rocketman Creative, then there are probably some images that come to mind when you think of your future food truck. It’s up to you to communicate your vision to your designer so that he or she can take it from a simple picture in your head to a reality on paper.

What elements should your designs have? Well, every visual aspect of your food truck business—all the way from the font used in your logo to the colors that appear on your menu board—can have an impact on the way people perceive you. With that in mind, it’s essential to choose colors, fonts, and images that integrate with your brand identity.

Let’s take a brief look at how customers can receive different messages from various design choices:

Color

Color is an integral part of your food truck’s design, and it can communicate some big messages about your brand. Some trucks choose colors that bring to mind the foods they’re serving, while others opt for hues that evoke a certain mindset.

Check out what the colors these FoodTruckrs chose say about their brands:

Liba Falafel

  • Liba Falafel’s bright, lime green truck brings freshness and crisp flavors to mind.

Big Gay Ice Cream

  • Big Gay Ice Cream’s rainbow-hued logo is fun and feisty—and also represents the myriad of flavors and toppings available to any fan with a sweet tooth.

Bacon Bacon

  • Bacon Bacon’s logo and truck design has a very subtle hint of pink in the background, which serves to conjure up images of the tasty meat fans will find.

Fonts

Fans need to know your food truck’s name—but what should they see when they look at it printed on the side of your truck? Are you all about fun and whimsy? Or does your truck’s menu lean toward the elegant and classy?

Many FoodTruckrs have found the perfect fonts to convey important truths about their brands without ever having to say a word:

Blast Off!

  • Blast Off! is one food truck that’s all about having fun. They describe their menu as “intergalactic comfort food for the masses,” and the truck has a giant rocket printed on the side. The use of a comic book style font fits in well with the truck’s theme and imagery, and fans know that they’re in for a special treat with this truck.
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BC Tacos

  • BC Tacos uses a distressed font with an aged look that coordinates well with their caveman logo and the name of their truck. The design is simple and memorable, and appeals to fans who want something a little different from the norm.

The Peached Tortilla

  • The Peached Tortilla utilizes a very simple sans serif font and some retro script lettering in their logo, both of which fit in well with the elegant homegrown theme of the truck. For a truck that really pours their time and love into every single menu item, this font choice is quite appropriate.

Images

Images and iconography are perhaps the easiest way to communicate your truck’s brand with potential customers—and FoodTruckrs all around the country have found great artists to help them communicate their brands to fans.

Here are a few food trucks with fantastically relevant images:

The Slide Show

  • The Slide Show (contestants from Season 4 of “The Great Food Truck Race”) make great use of imagery on their truck with a Hollywood and film theme. With the truck’s name made to look like the letters in the iconic Hollywood sign and the use of clapboards and filmstrips, the truck’s imagery stays within a clear theme that is memorable for fans.

Monster PBJ

  • Monster PBJ’s mascot is one of our favorites (in fact, we even wrote about it before!)—it’s fun, friendly, and very recognizable. Along with the colored layers on the truck that mimic the classic ingredients in a PB&J, this bright purple monster brings out the kid in every fan and definitely grabs attention from the street.

The Purple Carrot

  • The Purple Carrot’s logo is extremely simple, but also highly effective. Though some artists may have simply designed a logo with one purple carrot, this truck instead uses a logo with three orange carrots and one purple carrot. The purple carrot stands out more—and, as a result, sends fans the subtle message that this truck has something to offer that other trucks don’t.

Articulating Your Vision to the Designer

If you were never much of an art student in school, you might be scratching your head trying to figure out how you can possibly choose the right colors, fonts, and images for your truck. Fortunately, if you’re working with a designer, you don’t have to—that’s his or her job! However, it is up to you to communicate your vision for your brand to the artist so that he or she can make the best design choices.

Here are a few questions you should consider before meeting with your designer:

1. What Emotions Do I Want My Customers to Feel?

When a customer walks by your truck, what’s the first emotion he or she should feel? This is a tough one, because for most people, “hungry!” isn’t an emotion.

Most food truck owners want their customers to feel happy, but you’ll need to take this a step further and get more specific if you want to come up with an effective design. Do you want your customers to feel comforted by your menu selection? Nostalgic? Curious? Positive about a social mission? Excited? Adventurous?

If you’re not sure what kinds of emotions your food truck should conjure up in fans, think of it this way—beyond food, what is your truck serving? Are you offering fans a taste of a familiar dish from their childhoods? Are you giving people the chance to try a fusion of two cuisines that they’ve never had paired together before? Or are you focusing on creating unique meals made from local, organic ingredients that support your community’s farmers? The answer to this question hearkens back to when we defined your values in the “Establish Your Brand” lesson. A well-defined “why” for your truck will help you figure out what emotion customers should feel when they see what you have to offer.

2. What Kind of Meaning Should the Design Have?

Your logo and design don’t just represent the why of your truck—they should also clearly depict the “what.” Though your designer can choose some colors, fonts, and images based on the emotions you’re trying to evoke in your customers, at the end of the day, the artwork should still be relevant to your brand and to what you have to offer.

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Many of the food trucks we see do a great job of this. Their logos and truck wraps are bold and full of personality, and they convey a good sense of what the truck has to offer in a succinct way. For instance, we love the Bananarchy logo of a raised fist holding a frozen banana (the truck’s signature menu item) and the Green Pirate Juice logo that plays on a skull and crossbones theme by replacing the crossbones with a juicing-appropriate carrot stick and celery stalk!

Bananarchy

Bananarchy Logo

Green Pirate Juice

Green Pirate Juice Logo

Keep your truck’s artwork clear and related to your menu, your mission, and your brand identity. It will make it easier for fans to understand what you’re selling, and it will give them something to remember after they’ve finished their meals.

3. What Will Be Recognizable About My Truck?

Some food trucks stand out to customers simply through the novelty of being restaurants on wheels. But others (particularly those in markets that are heavily saturated with food trucks like Los Angeles, Portland, and Austin) need something a little more special in order to be easily distinguishable from the crowd.

That’s where your truck’s logo and vehicle design can really come into play. A particularly iconic or memorable logo will stick with your customers so much that they get a craving every time they see it. Think of popular trucks like The Grilled Cheese Truck or King of Pops. Both trucks have successful logos and truck designs that showcase the respective companies’ food and personalities—and both logos are clear, distinct, and easy to remember.

The Grilled Cheese Truck

The Grilled Cheese Truck Logo

King of Pops

King of Pops Logo

Watch Your Truck’s Personality Come to Life

From your logo to your truck wrap, the right artwork for your food truck business can have a big impact on how many people walk up to your window—and on how likely people are to remember you in the future. Though you don’t have to invest in the fanciest, all-inclusive design work right upfront, we do recommend at least starting out with the two topics we’ve discussed here today: a great logo and an eye-catching truck wrap. These two pieces of art will draw attention from passersby and introduce customers to your brand from the start, so it’s essential to make sure they’re high-quality, accurate representations of the brand promises you want to deliver.

Coming up next week on “How to Start a Food Truck,” we’re tackling websites—everything from why you need one to how to get a simple page set up without spending a fortune. We’ve written about the importance of food truck websites before, but this lesson will go more in-depth and will help you decide exactly what you need to have in place before taking your truck out on the road. Don’t miss it!

In the meantime, tell us how we can help you get you started on your logo and food truck design. Are you having trouble coming up with a simple, iconic way to represent your truck? Not sure which colors will send the right message about your brand? Need help finding a designer? Contact us on Facebook or Twitter or leave us a message in the comments below—we’re always happy to help you get the answers you need to make your food truck business a success!

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image by Mark Krynsky

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FoodTruckr

FoodTruckr is the #1 online destination for current and aspiring food truck owners looking to succeed in the mobile food industry. Self described “food truck devotees,” the FoodTruckr team enjoys reading about successful entrepreneurs, salivating over photos of burritos on Twitter, and long walks through food truck parks. Chat with FoodTruckr on Facebook or check out the FoodTruckr School podcast for more awesome tips to level up your business.

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