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Vehicle Graphics Contest Winners

First Gear and Revving Up

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As with parents sending their children off to college, with mixed emotions we separated vehicle graphics from the International Sign Contest and presented them as a freestanding contest. They’d always enjoyed strong representation within the larger contest, but we didn’t know if the quantity of entries would justify this leap of faith.

I’m grateful to the industry professionals who’ve affirmed my confidence that wrapped, painted or gilded vehicles deserved their own competition. Before we “closed the gates,” we’d received an astonishing 256 entries from 57 companies. The competition became international in scope – we received submissions from Canada, England, Mexico and Jamaica.

Abundant quality and diversity complemented the contest’s quantity. As the prevailing entries will emphasize, service providers followed myriad paths to develop solutions. While some created relatively minimalist graphics that efficiently used negative space to emphasize legibility, others pushed the envelope and devised over-the-top artwork from a vivid imagination’s deep recesses.

Of course, the winners filtered through the eyes of four, very different beholders: a graphic artist who primarily designs packaging; a franchise-signshop owner; the proprietor of an upstart, full-service signshop; and a pinstriper with decades of experience. Our sage adjudicators (see facing page) acknowledged the merits of each approach, and the divergent displays of decked-out rides that cruised into our winners’ circle reflect this.

They judged the entries on three primary criteria: theme (effectively conveying an identity through vehicle graphics), complexity (both in terms of graphic layout on the vehicle’s allotted space and the fabrication’s degree of difficulty) and artistic merit (overall aesthetic appeal).

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In contrast to the International Sign Contest, where categories were created along a sign-type continuum, these Vehicle Graphics divisions are, primarily, application-based. For instance, service vehicles primarily comprise vehicles used for routine business travel, whereas promotional vehicles’ primarily strived to attract customers’ attention onsite or off-premise.

The two, aforementioned categories commanded the lion’s share of entries – Service Vehicles generated 70 entries, and Promotional Vehicles attracted 65. The rest of the categories’ participation was relatively steady – Signshop Vehicles, Unique Vehicles and Fleet Vehicles garnered 30, 27 and 25 entries, respectively, while Handcrafted Graphics, Marine Graphics and Transit Graphics rounded out the field with 15, 13 and 11 submissions, respectively.

The competition was fierce, and the victorious submissions endured painstaking scrutiny. Clearly, everyone took the contest seriously. ST’s editorial staff looks forward to the Vehicle Graphics Contest’s continued growth and development as it blossoms as an end-of-year tradition.

Let’s get on to the good stuff, and find out who earned our judges’ plaudits.

The Judges

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Christian Beebe, The Cincinnati Sign Co.
The junior member of the judging contingent, Beebe, who graduated from Miami (OH) University with a degree in marketing and business, accidentally found his way into the sign industry. He said, “I was looking to have my car decorated with vinyl, and I took it to a signshop. The asked me if I wanted a job, and I was looking. I quickly progressed to GM, and ultimately founded The Cincinnati Sign Co.”

The company produces A-frames and other sidewalk-sign varieties, as well as POP, interior graphics and banners. Beebe became one of the first U.S. shop owners to offer banners made from biodegradable material (see ST, September 2007, page 106). For more information about the shop, visit www.cincinnatisigns.com or call (513) 241-2726.

Jim “Dauber” Farr
A longtime ST contributor, Dauber designed the March 1993 issue’s cover, which featured a 1948 Packard coupe framed in a neon-like glow and pinstripting accents. Also, his decoration of fiberglass, porcine-themed art bikes and cars for Cincinnati’s Big Pig Gig graced our pages (see ST, October 2000, page 91).

Dauber arrived in Cincinnati in 1967 to attend the Central Academy for Commercial Art, where he met Bill “Short Round” Roell. The duo became business partners for 10 years, where they handpainted hundreds of race cars, show cars and hot rods. Thereafter, he opened his own Cincinnati-based pinstriping, handlettering and gilding studio where he continues to master his designs, logos and typefaces to complement his vehicle decorations.

His business has thrived such that his work has come full circle. Vintage-car enthusiasts, many of whom were Dauber’s customers in the ’60s and ’70s, have brought their now-antique, award-winning hot rods back to him for graphic restoration. In 2006, he became the first pinstriper inducted into the National Hot Rod Assn.’s Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Rick Roderer, FastSigns
After having earned industrial-design and advertising degrees from the University of Cincinnati and San Jose St. University (respectively), Rick Roderer opened his Fairfield, OH-based FastSigns® franchise in 1994. He said this dual-role background proved essential to understanding customers’ needs and effectively developing solutions. The shop remains a family affair – his father, Dick, assists with the shop’s business operations, and his brother, Steve, handles graphic-design duties.

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During the franchise’s 13-year existence, Rick said his family established long-term personal and professional relationships, and have successfully completed projects for schools, churches, auto dealerships and malls.

The shop’s amenities include a 60-in. HP DesignJet and a 54-in. Mimaki JV-3 printer, a 60-in. combination laminator, 15- and 54-in. cutting plotters and, to aid installation, a bucket truck with a 30-ft. maximum reach. For more information about the shop or FastSigns, visit www.fastsigns.com/227 or call (513) 942-3000.

Mike Seta, Seta Concept & Design
Seta graduated with a graphic-design degree from the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning at the University of Cincinnati. In 2001, he started Seta Concept & Design, where his focus primarily entails brand identity, print and packaging, with the occasional interactive-media or digital-illustration job.

In comparing packaging to vehicle graphics, he mused, “Packaging design must be clear, bold and simple. At the same time, the package has to communicate brand character and product benefits. When judging, I was drawn to entries that communicated creatively and efficiently. Some entries suffered from a lack of design restraint.

“However, as no single voice will clearly be heard in a room full of screaming people, no single message can be communicated with an unnecessarily complicated design.

He lives in Cincinnati with wife, Nicole, and daughters Hailey, 14, and 10-month-old Giuliana. Seta doubles as a professional musician – he fronts the cover band Forehead and also performs solo acoustic shows. He’s also an avid motorcyclist. For more information about Seta Concept and Design, call (513) 922-7382.

Handpainted Graphics Winners
Transit Graphics Winners
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