From the Driver’s Seat
Originally published: 06.01.10 by
HVACR Business Staff
7 tips on leading the design process
from a Tops in Trucks winner.
When my father founded
Frymire Services Inc.
in 1950, he had a marketer’s
eye for color. But
he also was a manly Texan, so when it
came time to choose a color scheme that
would stand out, he passed up pink for
a yellow-and-black combination. Over
the past 61 years, our customers and our
community have come to associate these
colors with our company and our bestin-
class service — so much so that we
now have a competitor with the same
In overseeing the most recent redesign
of our fleet of 90 vehicles, I knew
that my No. 1 responsibility as company
leader was to preserve those colors
and other design elements that have
clearly become part of our brand. At the
same time, I recognized that our trucks
themselves are an extremely important
component of marketing, and so the
new design needed to be modern while
still conveying Frymire’s culture of traditional
In short, the process was important
enough to deserve as much of my time
and attention as needed.
Your company might not have the
same history or culture as Frymire, but
your fleet design is just as important.
Think of your vehicles as billboards on
wheels. They say a lot about your company.
Shouldn’t you be leading the process that decides what they will say and
they will say it?
If you decide to take up this challenge,
consider these “lessons learned”
from my experience:
Use design professionals: You might
think you know what looks good, but you
are not a design expert, and probably, no
one on your payroll is either. When we
started our process, the first company
we called was a company that has always
provided outstanding fleet graphic services
to us. They are a great provider, but
in the very first conversation, I got the
feeling that we weren’t going to get the
creativity that we wanted. We called the
advertising company that designs our
billboards because the same principles
in billboard design apply to fleet design.
They and the fleet graphics provider
were more than happy to work together
to assist us in redesigning our fleet. This
team of expert design professionals were
instrumental in creating our effective
and award-winning design.
Give designers a working document
and template: Even though you
are not a design professional, you are a
company leader, and therefore should
know what your company stands for
and what is most important to convey
to customers through the design. Codify
this knowledge as specifically as possible
in an organized, written document that
the designers can begin working from. It
is even acceptable — and in many cases
appreciated — to provide a template of
lettering or a design if you have specifics
in mind. For this, we downloaded vehicle
templates (readily available from several
stock-photo Web sites) to create an overlay
for the initial lettering and scale we
envisioned. It was easy to do and gave
the designers a creative running start.
Think ahead about how else the design
will be used: When preparing the
design document, be sure to consider
how the design will be used in other marketing
materials. Will there be a picture
of a company van on your Web site? If
so, the “message” of the design needs to
come through in a digital environment
(smaller size, lower resolution, etc). Will
a photo of a truck be on a billboard or
other large illustration? If so, the design
must work at a larger size.
Keep highly recognized elements:
We did not involve our technicians in
the design process. Their skills are best
used in the field serving customers. One
thing your techs and salespeople can tell
you, though, is what people remember
about your existing fleet design. If you’ve
been in business a long time, you probably
already know this from comments
you’ve heard yourself. If not, ask your
staff and even loyal customers. Once you
have identified these elements, explain
in the design document that you want
them to remain.
Go for contrast: No doubt about
it, contrasting colors get attention. If
someone is suggesting that you use one
color or one color palette in your design,
ask for another opinion. People aren’t
going to be looking for your trucks,
and when they do see them, they aren’t
going to stare at them. Before a design
says anything to a potential customer, it
has to get the attention of the potential
customer. Contrast will do that.
More is less: This point is mostly
opinion, but it has worked very well for
Frymire. We go on the principle that
whatever someone can’t absorb in three
seconds is a distraction. Include the information
that is most important to convey,
and add sparingly from there.
Have multiple test viewings: Do
your vehicles disappear when the sun
goes down? Do they all travel at the
same speed and the same distance from
other vehicles and pedestrians? Of
course not. View your proposed designs
in the daylight and nighttime, and at a
variety of distances and speeds. After
doing this, you might decide to add type
that reflects light in the dark, or to add
your phone number to the back of a van.
These tweaks will go a long way toward
making your design as effective as it can
Over the years I’ve learned that people
in our community might not know every
single service we provide, but they know
our trucks when they see them. This tells
me that the Frymire fleet is more than a
collection of vehicles. It is who we are.
That’s why I do more than “find time”
when it comes to how our fleet looks and
what it says. I make it a priority.
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