The 2014 Vehicle Graphics Contest -- An Introduction

Nearly 300 entries received

With all of the media and equipment improvements made in the vehicle-graphics market, this arena still provides seemingly boundless room for growth. The still-abundant number of work vehicles that are defaced with peeling, discolored, cut vinyl – a cry for marketing help – attests to the ample opportunities available to wrap providers.
Thankfully, the vehicle-graphics market’s evolution has parlayed into an ever-growing number of compelling entries. The 8th Annual Vehicle Graphics Contest, sponsored by Mimaki, provided the most consistently high-quality field I’ve yet seen. Although some entries suggest the designer put text and images into a blender for the result – or deferred to 1950s abstract painter Jackson Pollack for inspiration – the large majority of submissions indicates the shop’s staff understands how to use negative space and layout information, and apply concise, easily read verbiage with relevant images that reinforce the brand message.
Still, the many flavors of how said messages were presented provide the contest with its rich diversity. Fifty-six shops submitted 295 entries, which were spread out over our seven categories. As usual, Service Vehicles – wraps applied to vehicles used by customers during business operation – and Promotional Vehicles – vehicles decorated primarily for specific product or service promotion – comprised the lion’s share of submissions. Unique Vehicles – those with 3-D decoration or vehicles decorated for unconventional use, such as graphics applied to racecars – also represented a large portion of the contest field.
I gladly called upon our neighbors from Advertising Vehicles – the shop resides in Blue Ash, OH, a northern Cincinnati suburb, and is less than one mile from our office – to serve as judges for this year’s proceedings. Their contingent included LV Semona, an Advertising Vehicles co-owner; Sarah Miller, who manages the shop’s design department; and Shawn Seger, a shop installer. I always strive to bring a divergent set of perspectives together. The judging criteria include Theme, Complexity and Artistic Merit; everyone’s opinion of a wrap’s expression of a branding theme and artistic merit is subjective. Also, what a designer defines as complexity (laying out verbiage and images to be easily read on a vehicle’s surfaces) differs from an installer’s definition (the skill and experience required to properly apply media over highly contoured surfaces, corrugations, rivets, mirrors and other surface impediments).
After the judges initially score the vehicles based on these criteria, I take the highest-scoring 20-30% (depending on category size), shuffle them so the judges don’t know which scored the highest in the previous round, and have them verbally debate them to determine the winners’ circle. The verbal exchanges usually inform and amuse, and the results often differ from the first round’s ratings.
Although many shops enter consistently – once again, Great Big Signs won the Unique Signs category with another 3-D, wrap/applique combo spectacular – several new faces graced the contest. Lake Elsinore, CA-based Awthentik Wraps, which hadn’t previously participated in the competition, earned four awards, including Best of Show for its wrap for Armored Ink Tattoo (tattoo parlors seemingly always provide the best opportunities for unique signage). The dramatic, orange-and-yellow color scheme, and replication of a tank’s wheels, provided menacing curb appeal. The photos, framing the wrap amidst a Mad Max-like environment, probably persuaded the judges as well.
Awthentik garnered three of the 10 Readers’ Choice Survey nominations – users and ST Facebook followers determined the winner – but Dallas-based 360 Wraps prevailed with its wrap for Tuner Goods, a car-aftermarket-equipment purveyor. The pseudo-plane look, which mimics a metallic fuselage and riveted panels, evidently scored points with the voters. Approximately 1,300 votes were cast.
Enjoy this year’s Vehicle Graphics Contest edition, and thanks again to Mimaki for serving as the competition’s sponsor. We hope you enjoy the results. And, if you’re a vehicle-graphics provider who doesn’t like the results, do something about it and enter next year!

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