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High Gear

A surge of entries made the 2nd Annual Vehicle Graphics Contest a dynamic competition.

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A first encore often stirs anxious feelings. A sophomore collegiate athlete returning from a strong freshman campaign must combat raised expectations and potential complacency, and a musician releasing a second album after a smash debut must dispel one-hit-wonder notions.

So I felt somewhat nervous as ST announced the 2nd Annual Vehicle Graphics Contest. Would previous contestants decide the sequel wouldn’t be worth their time, or would other potential competitors dismiss the first effort by not responding?

All of my fears were unfounded. Though 256 entries for the initial competition were encouraging, this year’s 357 submissions, a 40% increase, elated me. Thanks go to the 63 companies that submitted entries and helped make the com-petition a labor of love.

As expected, Promotional Vehicles accumulated the largest share with 85 entries. Service Vehicles also generated a strong showing with 62 submissions. Fleet graphics attracted a high volume (52). Many shops proudly unveiled self-promotion – Signshop Vehicles generated 44 entries. The Handcrafted Graphics field more than doubled last year’s tally with 32 entries. Other categories – all of which were hotly contested – include Unique Vehicles (40), Marine Graphics (24) and Transit Vehicles (18).

Great Big Signs (Kyle, TX), which won last year’s Best of Show with its Austin Ice Cream Festival truck (see ST, December 2007, page 108, and January 2008, page 68), successfully defended its title with the new VW microbus that trumpets a new Freebirds World Burrito in Norman, OK. Lynn Wilkerson, the shop’s owner, and fabricator Mario Munoz have been creating Freebirds van graphics, which feature “Libby” – a smaller-scale, wayward relative of the Statue of Liberty who serves as the chain’s icon – and handpainted vehicle graphics, for more than a decade.

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The judges held strong opinions about certain entries, and the diverse perspectives offered by a pinstriper/airbrush artist, large-format-printhouse sales executive, franchise-signshop owner and design-firm principal created vigorous debate, and their expertise and insights helped yield this unique crop of winners.

Whether your profession and/or passion entails wrapping trucks, handpainting vintage vehicles or decking out speedboats with vinyl, these forthcoming pages will suit your taste. Have a look; what you see might provide that creative spark you’ve been seeking.

About the Judges

Jon Blum
Jon Blum, director of the display division for Cincinnati-based Harlan Graphics, earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from West Virginia Wesleyan College. He began his career in Cincinnati setting offset-printing plates for a large industrial company before working for a display-printing facility and taking a sales position at Harlan before ascending to his current job. He said, “With our capabilities, we can fulfill 98% of our orders inhouse, include indoor and outdoor signage, POP and an array of digital graphics.” He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Oliver and Nina.

Chuck Denning
Chuck Denning has been the proprietor of a Cincinnati-based Signarama franchise for 12 years. Prior to opening the shop, he spent 13 years working in sales and management positions. Denning finds helping business build their public image through the design and fabrication of distinctive signage to be among the most rewarding aspects of his job. When he’s away from the shop, Denning enjoys family time with his wife and daughter.

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Andy Ruttle
ndy Ruttle, who earned his degree from the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, is founder and creative director for Cincinnati-based Ruttle Design Group (RDG), a communication and brand-design firm. Prior to founding the firm, he served as senior designer for Landor Assoc., where he created publications for Procter & Gamble (P&G) and designed packaging for such P&G brands as Tide, Crest and Puffs. Current RDG clients include the John Morrell Co., the Tradewinds Beverage Co. and such Perfetti Van Melle confection brands as Airheads and Mentos. Ruttle said, “RDG provides visual-identity guidelines, and vehicle graphics, wayfinding and other environmental graphics play a vital role in promoting brand awareness.”

An avid nature buff, Ruttle supports the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve, a 13,500-acre expanse in southeastern Ohio that houses a diverse range of indigenous flora and fauna.

Shane Syx
Shane Syx, a self-employed pinstriper and graphic artist from Fairborn, OH, laid the foundation for his career by taking 11 high-school art classes. He worked in several local signshops and created custom T-shirts and paintings on the side. He soon opened his own signshop and began airbrushing vehicles and producing handpainted or cut-vinyl signage.

An active member in the Pinstriping International Network (aka the Pinheads), Syx travels to meets nationwide and hosts auctions whose proceeds benefit the Childrens’ Miracle Network and other worthwhile charities. Syx recently returned from a trip to Australia, where he was commissioned to decorate military vehicles. “I’m honored to be paid to travel halfway across the world to do what I love,” he said.

The Winners:
Handpainted Graphics
Service Vehicle Graphics
Signshop Vehicle Graphics
Transit Vehicle Graphics
Promotional Vehicle Graphics

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