True headliners

Chicago Tribune

The winners in the latest National Private Truck Council/Commercial Carrier Journal Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards showcase some of the most popular approaches to today’s fleet graphics. One features bold, simple images and sparse text; another is almost all text. One uses classically sleek and beautiful images to catch the viewer’s eye; another attracts attention by appearing at first glance to be vandalized. More fundamentally, the entries represent the two principal tools of fleet graphics: cleverness and beauty.

Funny thing about the day
In last year’s competition, the theme that united all the day category winners was dairy: cheese, milk and ice cream. This year, there was no such coincidence, but if you were to reach for a theme it would be humor.

It’s a reach because the graphics of the winner in the day category, the Chicago Tribune, aren’t uniformly funny. Some of the graphics are intended just to be visually striking. But others are humorous – the person with steam coming out his ears to represent the Editorial section of the newspaper, for example.

What struck judges most, however, was how the Chicago Tribune used different graphics along the same theme to garner ongoing attention. “Each graphic for each vehicle was unique but part of a recognizable fleet-wide theme,” says judge Tony Brock, managing art director for Randall-Reilly Publishing, publisher of CCJ. “Well-executed and simple design made for quick identification.”

“Good use of color and simple graphics to tell an ongoing story about a product with many different facets,” says judge Rob Petrie, creative director for McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week Group. “The vehicles are a campaign in themselves, with each individual being an ‘installment’ in the story.”

The second- and third-place winners in the day category are all about humor. The Kraft Foods entry is part of the company’s national advertising campaign to tout how well Miracle Whip goes with turkey. The graphics feature turkeys using spray paint to vandalize positive messages about Miracle Whip.

“The turkeys vandalizing a ‘legitimate’ advertising campaign was hilarious and grabbed our attention,” says Brock. “This type of advertising is becoming more common, but this one, in particular, stands out.”

“It’s a little complex for a quick read, but excellent use of humor and good execution,” Petrie says.

While the humor in the Kraft Foods entry is mostly visual, the Northern Tool & Equipment

Kraft Foods Inc.

graphics are all about text. By playing off classic – though not particularly flattering – images of men, the graphics are “funny and somewhat daring,” Petrie says.

” ‘Never borrow tools. Never ask for directions.’ ” – that’s every working man’s credo,” Brock adds. “The graphics do a great job of communicating to the target demographic.”

Beauty of the night
Although the day category was highly competitive, only a handful of entries were submitted in the night category, which recognizes excellence in reflective graphics. Ultimately, the judges decided that only one of the candidates was worthy of recognition.

Simonton Windows’ graphics represent well the other approach to fleet graphics: namely, pretty pictures.

“It’s simply elegant,” says Petrie. “Beautiful execution.” Says Brock, “Simply put, it’s a

Simonton Windows Inc.

very classy graphic.”

First Place

Chicago Tribune
Chicago, Ill.
Designer: DDB, Chicago
Producer: Modagrafics, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Second Place
Kraft Foods Inc.
Glenview, Ill.
Designer: JWT, New York
Producer: Modagrafics, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Third Place
Northern Tool & Equipment
Burnsville, Minn.
Designer: Hunt Adkins, Minneapolis
Producer: Signature Graphics Inc., Porter, Ind.

First Place

Simonton Windows Inc.
Parkersburg, W.Va.
Designer: SBR Inc., Parkersburg, W.Va.
Producer: Endagraph, Export, Pa.

About the award
Since 1978, the National Private Truck Council and Commercial Carrier Journal have co-sponsored the Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards to recognize individual and corporate commitment to excellence in the design and use of commercial vehicle markings.

CCJ and NPTC believe the awards achieve several important objectives. Attractive equipment enhances the public’s perception of the motor carrier industry, and outstanding fleet graphics represent cost-effective marketing of a company’s products and services. And reflective graphics in particular may even improve the margin of safety by establishing visibility beyond minimum conspicuity requirements.

The Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards competition is open to fleets operating vans, straight trucks, tractor-trailers and buses. Excluded from the competition are fleet cars and one-of-a-kind, special purpose vehicles, such as show trucks.

Entries for 2005 were judged by a panel of graphic design professionals: Barbara Brecher, owner, Brecher Design Group; Tony Brock, managing art director, Randall-Reilly Publishing; and Rob Petrie, creative director, McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week Group.

Compete for 2006 honors
Are your fleet graphics potential award-winners? Plan now for the next Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards competition, which will cover graphics in operation during the current year. The entry deadline is Dec. 31, 2006. For entry forms and rules, contact Dean Smallwood, CCJ managing editor, at or 800-633-5953. Or you can download the form and rules at