We had the opportunity to sit down with Paul and Janee, owner's of the Kensington, Maryland streets' newest food truck, El Pollo Submarine. We discussed their food truck design, the unexpected bumps along the way, and what tips they have for food truck success.
Our main item is a savory chicken sub, or submarine. Chicken in Spanish translates to “Pollo”. As fans of the Beatles, “El Pollo Submarine” ala “The Yellow Submarine” instantly came to mind.
We drew our initial inspiration from the colorful and vibrant native artwork of El Salvador. Since the name of our truck is a play on “The Yellow Submarine,” we also wanted to incorporate the 60’s style artwork of the album. We then set Nicole upon the difficult task of tastefully mixing these two concepts together, which she pulled off flawlessly!
Salvadoran comfort food. Mainly: Pupusas, Chicken Sub, Enchiladas (Salvadoran Tostadas).
Janee had always daydreamed about owning a food truck, but never considered it a realistic possibility. Paul had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but couldn’t come up with the right idea for his first business. After dating for a couple years, we decided that together we could make our dreams a reality.
The most important feature to a food truck website is a calendar that displays a weekly location schedule. Next to that, contact information is essential to book catering gigs. And while we almost forgot to mention the menu, we realize that as a food truck you’ll rely on being seen or spotted. The menu will be on the truck, but you have to attract people to your truck first before they are compelled to look you up online. Having the menu on the website is only useful once people are interested or hungry enough to know who you are, and where you’ll be next.
Aside from taking the leap and leaving the prospect of a “stable career,” the hardest thing we’ve had to deal with to date was getting our truck in good running condition. While you should trust your vendor to deliver a fully functioning truck, you should never doubt that mistakes can be made, and accidents can happen. Ours broke down after 10 minutes of driving it for the first time, and we were stuck trying to get a tow truck during rush hour traffic. Not all tow trucks can tow other trucks, and while it seems obvious to us now, we learned it the hard way. We called several tow companies, all of which denied our request. It took us three hours of waiting under the summer sun on the shoulder to finally find a company capable of helping us.
Cooking delicious food is just a small fraction of what you’ll do as a food truck owner. Starting and running a food truck business is a larger project than we anticipated, and you must be prepared to manage numerous tasks. Communication is key! Without effective communication you run the risk of a project steering off course. Unless you’re the type who likes to learn the hard way, our business tip to help you succeed would be to consider taking a few courses in project management before undertaking a food truck business.
Remember this: there is no food truck without a truck. The truck itself is the business’ biggest asset. Without a properly running truck, you have NO means of conducting business. Our truck was in bad shape when we first received it. Sometimes things go wrong, so our words of wisdom are: “expect the best, but plan for the worst.” If you plan for the worst, you’ll be one step ahead when things inevitably don’t go as planned. The saying “time is money” cannot be more true in the food truck business. Time not spent networking, catering or vending are missed opportunities and money not being made. How well you anticipate and bounce back from major and even minor setbacks will determine your success in this business.
Our favorite item is found in the name of our truck, the chicken “pollo” sub! Although any one of our dishes can be a favorite depending on what mood we’re in.
The best part of working with Design Womb was seeing our concept come to life. There’s something quite special about trusting someone to personify your food truck in such a way that it evokes an identity beyond your own. We no longer view our food truck as merely a vehicle that can cook and sell food. A food truck with a brand is more than that. Thanks to Design Womb, our food truck is a key team player who markets and advertises for us in a visual way. Not only is it a mobile kitchen, it’s a mobile billboard…our mascot.
August 16, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
Whose gluten free and rapidly stealing the spotlight? Cider, that’s who. These brands are the up and coming players in spirits, and they’re no exception when it comes to craft cider packaging design. Mint, jalapeno, basil, elderberry, cherry; these are just some of the flavors incorporated in new craft ciders that provide plenty of space for play both in packaging design and on your taste buds.
Cider packaging design has historically focused on apples, orchards, trees, or some combination thereof, which is a huge contributor to the perception of all ciders being extremely sweet. Although some brands still pay homage to the drink’s main ingredient and its roots, the incorporation of new, eccentric ingredients and flavors have opened up a new world of creative packaging design. For example, Seattle Cider Company, New Belgium, and Shacksbury all have their own takes on dry, semi-dry, and semi-sweet ciders. This evolution has allowed cider to become a drink to be enjoyed all year round, not just in the summer months, which opens up even more possibilities for the composition of the drink as well as its design. Demographic trends are impacting this industry too. Hard. Although ciders have always been incredibly popular amongst younger women, the results are in, and guys like cider too. Who knew? This has led to a large gravitation towards an outdoorsy, craftsman-like, vintage, and more gender neutral design aesthetic in the cider realm to appeal to all consumers. Perhaps this is cider’s way of sneaking in on beer packaging design territory… Whatever it is, it’s working.
As more consumers opt for a healthier, gluten free, and in some cases, organic drink option on Friday night, craft ciders are only going to grow from here. Not only is cider a top choice for the health-conscious and/or calorie-counting population (is cider really that much better? haha), but the spirit is quickly becoming on par with beer and wine as a drink menu staple for all occasions. Craft cider will only become more synonymous with beer as small batches, unique bottles and cans, and targeted packaging design continue to become the norm. The majority of craft cider drinkers are coming from the craft beer world (Perhaps they are also trying to reel in some wine drinkers? Some of the really dry ones are almost champagne-like, have you had?). Bottom line, the same level of quality from the overall brand is expected. They want to know where the ingredients that are in that bottle or can came from, what makes these ingredients special, and they want to know the story behind who made it and why. These are important elements to include in the essence of each craft cider’s packaging design to continue to capture that market and eventually position cider as a premium drink. (People shop with their eyes first, after all.) With a larger emphasis on quality and taste, the relationship that a craft cider brand can create between its product and its consumers is going to make a difference and build strong brand loyalty that will keep them coming back, similar to what has worked for craft beer packaging design. Will, then, brand loyalty shift to the smaller, lesser known, craft cider with a story?
August 03, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
We had the opportunity to sit down with Marissa and Matt of Boo Coo Roux, a Cajun & Creole food truck based in Chicago, and learn about their journey.
We thought about it for a while and imagined some different scenarios, some in where we would possibly leave Chicago. There was about two years of various research, trips to other cities, getting to know the scene around Chicago, and experimenting with recipes before we decided it was time to go for it. We realized the the food truck scene was growing in Chicago and wanted to jump in before it became oversaturated.
We wanted something fun and kind of crazy without going too overboard or looking like a scene from Bourbon Street. In our heads we imagined a clean and sophisticated look that had an edge to it. We initially wanted the design to be colorful without looking tacky. We never imagined black as being our background color or main color, but when we were presented with it we loved it. Nicole transformed our ideas exactly how we imagined it.
We originally thought of the name Roux, simple yet an important ingredient in one of our main dishes, gumbo. That name was taken, not by another truck but by another Illinois business so we started playing around with how we could still use the word roux in our name. We researched words and found the slang word "boo coo" which comes from the French word "beaucoup" meaning "a lot" and it all came together from there.
Homemade fresh and spicy quality Cajun comfort food with a twist.
We originally considered moving to Colorado in order to open a Chicago-style food truck with dishes like homemade Italian beef and homemade hot dogs and bratwursts. After some research on the industry in Colorado we decided to stay in Chicago and try it here first. We needed to drop the Chicago-style food since there are already so many options (but we still have an amazing Italian beef recipe on the back burner just in case!). From there we thought about the type of food that was lacking in restaurants and especially the food truck scene and we landed on Cajun. Matt and Louis have strong backgrounds in French cooking as well so it really made sense since so many of Cajun dishes incorporate French cooking techniques.
We use the website to advertise our menu as well as catering options. I think the most important feature is keeping an updated menu. Most people want to know what is available if they are going to make the trip to the truck. We don't use the website yet to post our schedule but hope to in the future. Without going into detail, the food truck parking scene is no joke and there are days where it can be hard to know where one will park. We post our locations for lunch both on Facebook and Twitter.
Everything. It's an emotional experience when you own your own business, you become invested in every aspect. However, if I have to pick one area that was the most difficult it was probably the initial startup and build of the truck. It seemed like it would never end despite being organized and doing everything in our power to move things along.
We are not from Louisiana so we were very cautious to pursue this style of cuisine and wanted respect the food while making it our own. This involved a lot of R&D and some trips to New Orleans. That being said, it's an overwhelming success when someone from the region compliments our food. We always create food that we hope pleases the masses but a compliment from a native is always the icing on the cake.
Matt knows the owner of the Fat Shallot from his days at Everest and he was lucky enough to work on the truck. He got to see first-hand what operation on a truck was like. His experience gave him a good foundation of where to begin the process and what to think about. They were and still are a helpful resource. There are so many details to think about with startup like insurance, propane, vendors, food cost, website, design, etc.
It's tough. Any cook or chef in the food industry already understands the demands of that world, and a truck is no exception, especially when you approach it with the intention to create everything from scratch like we do.
The gumbo! We went through many batches and minor changes to come up with a recipe that we feel best represents the dish.
Nicole! Throughout the entire startup process she was one of the best people that we worked with. She never missed a beat. We are still obsessed with the final design and could not be happier. I don’t even think we had to make any changes on the design option that we picked because it was so spot on, in fact we had a hard time picking from the options that she gave us because they all were so great!
June 21, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
Curry Up Now's food truck was used as part of an example during a demo at Apple's spring WWDC. The logo design and branding work we did for the food truck and resturants made a flash appearance on the big screen next to the truck's delicious Indian street food menu. As huge fans of these conferences and gadget annoucement days, we're astonished!
June 16, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
“Brand names reveal a lot more than you think, as the fascinating science of ‘sound symbolism’ suggests.”
Which ice cream has fewer calories: Frish or Frosh? Which city is geographically closer: Fleen or Floon? The majority of people would think that Frish would have fewer calories than Frosh, and that Floon was farther away than Fleen. Did you think the same? These words are fictional, but the sounds that they make cause our minds to apply certain meanings to them.
Language studies have shown that humans make cognitive connections with sounds and meanings. There are a lot of components that make up brand voice, but is your name aligned with what you do? Or more importantly, with what people may think you do? Different sounds in words create different connections than you may intend your brand to say. Read on (especially if you’re in the market for a new name!) to see what your sounds may actually mean to clients at first glance. Definitely something to consider when you’re branding, rebranding or naming your next company.
June 04, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
Brand Voice might sound like the robot language of a dystopian future, or the natural result of Citizens United, but thankfully it’s neither of those. Quite simply, Brand Voice is the distillation of everything your brand stands for. It’s a codified set of beliefs that inform every communication your brand puts out, from TV commercials to Tweets, to customer service calls. Defining your brand’s voice means making sure everything your brand says is true to itself.
Brand Voice should be a direct reflection of the brand, it’s employees, customers, and products. When working with a brand team to define their brand voice, I always start with “Why did you start this company?” Most businesses are started by passionate people with an idea, and there’s nothing more powerful than sharing that passion with customers. Then we talk about the brand’s ethos, what does it stand for? Is it about empowering employees, or saving the world, or perhaps letting customers ice their own toaster strudel instead of relying upon pre-iced pastries that only lead to heartbreak and disappointment. We get to the bottom of why the business exists, and how it makes its customers feel. We get to the truth behind the brand, and that becomes the foundation for the brand’s voice.
I tell clients more than I probably should, when you hire a writer to help define your brand’s voice, you’re hiring them to ensure you don’t need a writer every time you need writing. Defining and understanding your brand’s voice gives you a clear roadmap on how to communicate. It ensures that every message is “on brand” no matter what the medium or subject matter, and perhaps most importantly, it gives your brand a point of view that differentiates it from every other one out there. Brand voice is about articulating what a brand stands for and saying it in a way that’s ownable, distinct, and different, and making sure that every time your brand opens its purely metaphorical mouth, what comes out represents exactly what you intended.
May 03, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
April 28, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
February 25, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
The judges have spoken! Design Womb's branding and food truck identity work for Boo Coo Roux is one of 142 winning projects selected out of 1700 entries for this year's 6th Typography Annual. Grab a copy of the annual this month in print.
January 05, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
We're very excited to announce Design Womb's resturant branding and design collaboration in the works this year with chefs John Shields and his wife, Karen Urie Shields. We'll be working alongside the duo for the launch of their highly anticipated Ada St. location, which is split between two floors, and the chefs envision opening two restaurants.
John worked at Charlie Trotter's, and was part of the opening team at the hot Chicago restaurant spot, Alinea. Karen spent two years at Tru working under Gale Gand, then six years at Trotter's, the last three as head pastry chef. As a husband-wife team, they opened Town House in 2008 in the tiny town of Chilhowie, VA, where they quickly acquired a monster reputation; John was a 2011 James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
July 29, 2015 | BY Nicole LaFave
In 2013 something outstanding happened to me: I discovered that I love whiskey. Having lived out on the West Coast for over 8 years, I was barely drinking anything other than cold-pressed green juice. After an evening of oysters and drinks on a snowy Chicago night, everything changed. I found my drink: The Manhattan cocktail. The crispness of a great small-batch whiskey mixed with the sweetness of vermouth, all tied together with some craft aromatic bitters and that boozy cherry had me on the first sip. On the rocks, please.
This is all to say: women like whiskey too.
Working in the food and beverage packaging and design space, I am always observing what products I purchase and what products I pass by. While whiskey packaging design is indeed starting to expand in aesthetic with a lot of modern, clean, and novel approaches, overall the designs are overtly masculine or “Old World” feeling. I want what's inside the bottle, of course, but there's very little on what's outside the bottle to sway my purchasing decision.
New craft distilleries are popping up across the country, definitely an exciting proposition, and with that some updated approaches to whiskey branding. While this is exciting, I think there are a lot of unexplored possibilities that speak to both genders that can successfully market to this new wave of younger whiskey consumers.
As it stands now, the whiskey packaging design market may be predominantly a man’s world. But as a whiskey startup distillery, I know I would want to capitalize on the new generation of whiskey drinkers and appreciators. That translates to whiskey packaging design that doesn’t put off female buyers and packaging that explores modern ways to speak to both genders. Obviously the history and lore of the drink lends to the traditional designs in whiskey packaging, but does whiskey have to feel so old and serious all the time? I'm not talking about wrapping the bottle in pink lace -- just give me something more contemporary and appealing.
Like craft coffee, I think these new small batch whiskey brands are slowly starting to explore some different and modern designs and veer away from heavy masculinity, but there is a lot of opportunity in pushing whiskey packaging design further. An amazing and quality product needs unique and quality design to accompany it. If you want to stand out on the shelves and persuade consumers that your brand is better than your competitor's, focusing on creating a novel and distinctive design aesthetic is paramount.
In the end, do you really want your brand to look like everything else on the shelf that your products will live on?
July 22, 2015 | BY Nicole LaFave
To celebrate, we're sharing a few of our favorite collaborations from the past year or so. #PackagingDesignDay
May 07, 2015 | BY Nicole LaFave
Sexy and fun falafel, fries, and hummus have been roaming the streets in Orange County, California in the Falasophy food truck. We're thrilled to have been a part of this successful launch. See the full project.
Photography: Michelle Edmunds | Imaging: Core Group Studio
April 03, 2015 | BY Nicole LaFave
The moment a digital friend referred to me (jokingly) as The Food Truck Girl, I knew I had a situation. It all started back in 2010. My first was the Curry Up Now truck, which expanded into a small army of branded trucks in the Bay Area.
Shortly after in 2012, Curry Up Now's sexy sister The Dosa Republic launched with a brick & mortar and a food truck. Ok. Rewind. Technically, it started in 2009. Beachy Cream launched and they hit the streets of Los Angeles with a mobile ice cream cart and umbrella. Ice cream on wheels counts, right? Ice cream sandwiches & a heck of a lot of Indian food later, in 2012, Sajj launched its quick-serve falafel & shawarma concept and food truck.
Johnny Doughnuts took center stage with its retro deco in the fall of 2012. Mmmmmm, gourmet doughnuts and hot coffee. The truck is ready to roam and will launch this month. Bay Area folks, get ready. These guys aren't messing around and are a heck of a lot of fun.
The first half of 2013 packs a bold punch. Design Womb will collaborate on the branding and debut for the Drums & Crumbs food truck in Sonoma County (southern food, California spin) as well as KAMA Food Lab, a vegetarian (to start) customer-focused ethnic concept to hit the streets of San Francisco this summer/fall.
April 18, 2013 | BY Nicole LaFave
Santa Cruz's Isabel Freed is launching Pantry House; a line of handcrafted jams, mustards, butters & sauces. Be on the lookout for the collaboration Design Womb did on the new branding, package design & website (where you'll be able to shop to order online) this spring/summer.
March 28, 2013 | BY Nicole LaFave
Last year I invented a little brand for California olive oil packaging. These were gifted to a handful of clients, friends & family. The full project photos will be featured on the new Design Womb site in early 2013, but in the meantime here is a little snippet reminder of my love of helicopters. I love a good chopper.
November 16, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
October 25, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
October 24, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
October 23, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
We just wrapped up the logo and branding for Lemonmade. Those of you cool parents in Chicago with little ones, you want to watch for this one in spring of 2012. More to come.
January 20, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
The Beachy Cream ice cream sandwich packaging sleeves have arrived. Inspired by fun in the sun, beach balls and polka dot bikinis, ice cream just got a whole lot more fun. These are going to make killer favors at parties & weddings. You can see more of the branding project for my client here or visit their site to order ice cream online.
January 17, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
January 17, 2012 | BY Nicole LaFave
My new favorite aisle at the grocery store it the olive oil section. The packaging design lures me in. It's hard to beat the wine area or chocolate bar area, but lately the olive oil market seems to be getting bigger and bigger. I would love to do more of this kind of work. Specialty food packaging = dream design projects to me. I felt pretty inspired to do some packaging design for a holiday gift this year and incorporate something I love looking at, helicopters! The result was California extra virgin olive oil, Taste Patrol Fine Foods & Findings by Design Womb. We'll see where the chopper takes me next. I've mentioned this before. I love all the different shapes and sizes helicopters come in. Hoping to turn this project into a printmaking project in 2012 for helicopter prints. Keep you posted.
December 30, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
December 09, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
New logo design for a client launching a web boutique that will sell scandinavian woven rugs, ceramics and home goods.
November 18, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
Client: Boyer, Hebert, Abels & Angelle, Counselors at law Services: branding, logo design, stationary system View the project: BHAA Law
October 28, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
Client: IIDA NC | Northern California - The International Interior Design Association's Northern California Chapter is a networking and educational association with a professional and student outreach about the profession of Interior Design. Services: branding, logo design, stationary system, website design View the full project: IIDA NC branding, stationary & website
October 27, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
Earlier this year (yes, I'm that behind on sharing this) I had the opportunity to collaborate on some creative branding & quick application screen shots for smrtUp, a mobile app startup company. I haven't seen the new branding in use yet, but you can compare the old vs. the new at smartupapp.com.
October 26, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
Flower & Gold is a hair and makeup beauty operation catering to both the fashion and wedding markets in the San Francisco bay area. I got the pleasure of helping Ashley & Alexia launch their brand (Ashley does my hair). Their skills speak for themselves if you take a peek into the gallery, and I'm pretty certain their personalities would make them a great pair to have around on your big wedding day or a stressful event. You can see more of the project here on Design Womb. The website was a developed by Kyle R. Young, extended family and a favorite of mine to collaborate and work with.
October 25, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
I added a food & beverage logo gallery to Design Womb this weekend. There is something about working on food or beverage-related projects that I find very rewarding. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am always hungry, or there is just a lot of potential with the branding and packaging out there. I am hoping to keep up these mini portfolio updates to the current site until my new website redesign project is moving full speed ahead, aiming for the new year. Shame on me. I am a year behind with some of these new work & press updates. Better late than never?
October 03, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
This week I had a stamp made for my friend Alisa's lovely little side project (fragrance & perfume). I've been stamp-obsessed in the house this week. I have some awesome ones coming up for Big Nut Brewing and Curry Up Now in the works.
September 27, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
Nice little blog entry from Rosie at PsPrint. Design on Wheels features Design Womb's work for the new Curry Up Now logo & food truck serving the San Francisco Bay Area with delicious indian street food. You can also see a before and after comparison of the logo.
September 13, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
June 24, 2011 | BY Nicole LaFave
New year, new ice cream. Ann Ryan and I have finalized her brand identity and website. Watch out for updates to my print portfolio with the Beachy Cream full package soon.
January 11, 2010 | BY Nicole LaFave
October has brought some very interesting projects with it, including the Beachy Cream (Malibu's Natural Ice Cream) Identity & Logo Design. Who doesn't agree that Ice Cream is always fun? Beachy Cream's own Ann & I are hard at work on her logo, more to come later!
October 25, 2009 | BY Nicole LaFave