Paradise Sauced

Island-themed food trucks and vans deliver the tropics in winter.
Palmer Signs' island-themed work for a food truck.

Tropical designs seem ubiquitous, especially during winter. In an increasingly crowded market of images featuring sun, sand and palm trees, how does a new tropically themed business stand out?


That’s the challenge Justin “Juice” Lee, designer for Palmer Signs (Roseville, CA), recently faced when designing a food truck for local 808 Island Grill – 808 being the area code for Hawaii. “Barbara, the truck owner, had previously visited our shop,” Juice said. “Then we met again at [a food truck] seminar I was doing.” That second introduction and subsequent one-on-one conversation led to Palmer Signs’ getting the job. Barbara brought her simple palm-trees-and-copy logo, so the shop recommended the wrap as a chance to completely rebrand. “She had toyed with a little Hawaiian dude [as a mascot],” Juice said, “but I was worried about it being offensive in some way.” Ultimately Juice suggested, “Playing off of the Tiki culture. We have a pretty vast Tiki culture in California,” as well as many events that lend perfectly to food trucks.

“I saw this as an opportunity to use the old-school 1920’s- and 1930’s-style animated look that is having a resurgence in some of the art, hot rod and gaming communities,” Juice said. With Barbara’s approval of the Tiki mascot, the rest of the design went quickly. Juice used CADlink’s SignLab for all vector work, then Photoshop for colorization, shading and the retro-cartoon overlay texture. Palmer Signs printed the graphics on 3M Controltac IJ180C using their HP Latex 570 printers. They then applied 3M Scotchcal 8518 Gloss Overlaminate using their Gfp 563TH laminator. 

Palmer Signs is fortunate to be very busy, so it books jobs a month out. “As soon as we agree on a project and receive a deposit, we schedule the install immediately, often before any design has taken place, so that by the time install date arrives, design has been completed,” Juice said. This fully integrated practice ensures clients receive the finished product in a timely manner. “Since food trucks are so large, we try to schedule out an entire week to work on the trucks in preparation for any unforeseen circumstances,” Juice said. The total time involving 808 Island Grill’s food truck was five weeks, with the wrap itself taking four days. 


Baltimore Graphics did a complete design package for Bahama Mike’s.
Baltimore Graphics did a complete design package for Bahama Mike’s.

Fly across the country to Pasadena, MD, where the Middle Atlantic state’s tropical neighbor, The Bahamas, beckons. Here, the owner of restaurant Bahama Mike’s approached Baltimore Graphics (Glen Burnie, MD) for a complete design package: logo, menus, uniforms and an interior dining area, as well as a delivery van and box truck. “Their initial idea for their logo was [too busy] – more in line with something you would see on a graphic T-shirt from a beach bar,” Ben Gonzales, co-owner of Baltimore Graphics, said. “We walked them through how it would be used and applied to their branding, and compared similar graphics with branding from franchise restaurants.” The shop used Chick-fil-A as an example to explain the difference between a logo and marketing graphics, with the result for Bahama Mike’s a simpler but more adaptable logo.

Baltimore Graphics designed the wrap using Adobe’s suite. “The package we offered them included the logo/brand design as well as the vehicle wrap,” Ben said, emphasizing that his shop takes time to sit and discuss clients’ ideas with them and to make suggestions before starting any design work. “This really helps minimize the guesswork and rounds of revisions,” he said. The shop specified ORAFOL’s ORACAL 3751RA wrap vinyl – “We’ve been using Orafol vinyl for 11 years now with great success,” Ben said. Their Roland SOLJET Pro III XC-540 printed the graphics, then their GBC Professional 1064WF laminator protected the wraps with Oracal 290 laminate.

“We realize that every region and material mix will vary in life expectancy,” Ben said, noting that some Orafol wraps the shops installed 11 years ago are still on the road. “We typically tell our clients they can expect three years but we are using the premium stuff, so we expect them to last longer.” Baltimore Graphics also offers a limited 12-month warranty against any fading, peeling or bubbling. Nice! All of that should allow Bahama Mike’s to deliver their taste of the tropics for many winters to come.


Signs of the Times May 2020

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