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How to Bungle a Vehicle Wrap

(April 2012) posted on Mon Apr 09, 2012

Common wrap mistakes ranging from lessons learned the hard way to almost comical happenings.

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By Jared Smith

At one point in time, our shop blindly trusted every vehicle-wrap template we came across. But after forgetting to compare the template to the actual wheelbase measurement – and ending up with a print only 90 percent of the actual vehicle size – we now double check even the most “accurate” of templates. When a designer or print operator is looking at files for a vehicle wrap, a 5- or 10-percent size discrepancy doesn’t exactly jump off the page. By the time you add in the necessary bleed, it’s very difficult for anyone to catch that a driver’s side might need to be 187 inches when the file is only 174 inches. The most vital factor we manage when doing wrap surveys is the wheelbase. It doesn’t guarantee that the rest of the template is correct, but it absolutely indicates whether or not your template is to scale. Get the wheelbase from the vehicle and compare it to the template – every single time.

Errors to laugh at later
Sometimes, errors happen that you never even thought were possible, which can be frustrating and hilarious all at the same time. Three cases in point:

* One of our funniest mistakes happened when we designed a shuttle bus for a news radio station, without noticing that the gas door landed right on someone’s mouth in the graphic. Here’s a hilarious visual: The poor radio station’s intern who had to fill up the van with gas as passersby took pictures of the scene to send to not only their friends, but to post on social-media sites for the whole world to see. This had to be a one-in-a-million occurrence – and it had to happen to us. To make matters worse (or funnier, depending upon your political bent), the image featured our nation’s very own Hilary Clinton. Luckily, we never received a call from Washington.

* I once saw a TV special about how surgeons take inventory on all of their equipment and consumables to ensure that nothing gets left inside the patient after they stitch him/her closed. Little did I know that our shop needed to take the same precautions. After getting a call from a customer asking us if we wanted our torch back, we began enforcing a simple checklist that requires the installer to do a post-job sweep of the vehicle’s interior, which has seemed to cure our former inventory issue.

* “We locked the keys inside the vehicle” is never something you want to hear, especially when the vehicle is an armored SWAT car. The vehicle’s doors were clad with ¼-inch steel and didn’t even have door handles – just a dead-bolt lock. To make matters worse, we had a bad experience with this client in the past: We had burned their fireproof suites with our screen-printing equipment back when we used to print t-shirts. Luckily, we found a ladder on the rear of the vehicle that led to the roof, where we found an unlocked escape hatch that enabled us to drop in and hit “unlock.”

Lessons learned
While these mistakes can provide a lot of frustrations as well as a few laughs, they can also teach your company some invaluable lessons. We treat every one of these mistakes as a chance to learn and an opportunity to sharpen our skills, and we then come up with a plan to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Mistakes also present an opportunity to fine-tune our client relations. If your team makes a mistake, immediately steps up, admits their faults, and informs the client that they are going to quickly and efficiently make it right, you might actually impress the client more than if you had gotten the job right in the first place.

We are human and mistakes happen. What matter most is what we do about them.

Jared Smith is president of bluemedia (, a leading provider of design and printing for use in vehicle, large-format, and enviornmental applications, in Tempe, Arizona.