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Food Truck Feature: El Pollo Submarine | Kensington, MD

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.

How did you decide on a name for your food truck business?

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.

What inspired the branding, logo design, and identity for your food truck?

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!

What kind of food does your truck sell in 10 words or less?

Salvadoran comfort food. Mainly: Pupusas, Chicken Sub, Enchiladas (Salvadoran Tostadas).

How did you decide to go forward with launching your own food truck?

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.

How do you use your food truck's website for new business and what features do you think are the most important online?

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.

What's been the hardest thing to date in the whole process of launching your food truck?

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.

What's been the most surprising business tip you can share (success or tip)?

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.

What is/are some of the most helpful resources you found in researching how to launch a food truck?

Books we have found helpful are “Running a Food Truck for Dummies” and “The Food Truck Handbook”. And helpful websites include Foodtruckr.com and Mobile-Cuisine.com.

Words of wisdom you want to leave with us and fellow aspiring food truckers across the country?

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.

What's your favorite thing on the menu?

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.

Favorite part about working with Design Womb on the food truck branding?

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

Craft Cider Packaging Design: Present and Future

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.

Current Craft Cider Packaging Design Trends

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 CompanyNew 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.

The Future of Craft Cider Brands

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

Food Truck Feature: Boo Coo Roux | Chicago, IL

Boo Coo Roux Food Truck Wrap Design and Branding, Chicago Illinois

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. 

How did you decide to go forward with launching your own food truck?

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.

What inspired the branding, logo design, and identity look & feel for your food truck?

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. 

How did you pick the name for your truck?

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.

What kind of truck does your food sell in 10 words or less?

Homemade fresh and spicy quality Cajun comfort food with a twist.      

Any quick, insightful or funny story as to how you decided to really go forward with launching your own food truck?

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. 

How do you use your food truck's website for new business and what features do you think are the most important online?

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.

What's been the hardest thing to date in the whole process of launching your food truck?

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.

What's been the most surprising (success or tip)?

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.

What is/are some of the most helpful resources you found in researching how to launch a food truck?

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.

Words of wisdom do you want to leave us and any fellow aspiring food truckers across the country with?

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. 

What's your personal favorite thing on the menu?

The gumbo! We went through many batches and minor changes to come up with a recipe that we feel best represents the dish.

Favorite part about working with Design Womb on the food truck branding?

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!

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June 21, 2016  |  BY Nicole LaFave

Why the Sound of a Brand Name Matters

Sound of a Brand Name Fast Co Design

Annie Sneed of Fast Company talks sounds and branding. 

“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

Insights from a Writer and Director: Can Brands Talk? (Sort of)

Insights from a Writer and Director: Can Brands Talk?

What is Brand Voice?

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.

How do I find my Brand’s Voice?

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.

Making sure Brand Voice isn’t monotone.

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

Dipnotics Dips Packaging Design

Graphic Design USA featured our custom wrap-around packaging design for Dipnotics Dips. These dips don't taste healthy, they taste delicious. Check out the full project on our site. 

April 28, 2016  |  BY Aleksa Narbutaitis

Paperlux

Novum 11/11 – Making Of Cover from Paperlux on Vimeo.

I am bananas over this video and project by Paperlux that I came across on Graphic-ExchanGE this morning.

October 14, 2011  |  BY Nicole LaFave

Stamping Grounds

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

Pennant Stickers

I love these cute kraft paper pennant stickers. The possibilities are endless. I'd even use them to mark pages in folders or notebooks. You can find them at Olive Manna alongside other paper and textile products.

August 31, 2011  |  BY Nicole LaFave

inker linker: find an awesome printer

Finally, finally, finally. Thank you Jessica Hische for putting this one together. I envy you and you inspire me with these side projects. As someone that works in print design, I can't begin to tell you how many times I wished there was a website like this. There are so many great resources out there and so many odd jobs that come in that you never know what kind of printer or supplier you are going to need. Inker linker connects the dots, lets you sort by rating, type of shop and by location in the near future.

August 29, 2011  |  BY Nicole LaFave

Candid Color: One

August 18, 2011  |  BY Nicole LaFave

Ultimate Type Picker

For those of you in doubt, you can use this chart as a guide to picking the right typeface for your next project.

April 21, 2010  |  BY Nicole LaFave

To AIGA or not to AIGA

I would call myself a pretty decently successful freelance designer. I am working to grow my business, or double/triple it by the end of this year. Back in college, I was an AIGA student member, but since graduating and working in a handful of studios and deciding to go solo and freelance full-time, I haven't paid my dues since. I fully support an organization such as AIGA, and I love what they are about, but I find is so hard to cough up that $300. It's a love hate relationship. I am a professional, but I am also going it alone at the moment. Finding a way to pay for these extra organizations and at other times paid design competitions can be rough, no matter how much you think the benefits or results from joining might be later. Luckily AIGA offers a way to pay quarterly now, though I am still not sold on making the big leap. Is it work it, is it necessary? I'd love to hear what other professionals have to say about memberships and which ones they find the most valuable. My heart and my mind are saying yes, though I am still on the fence about how to rationalize taking the leap and finally joining AIGA again.

March 28, 2010  |  BY Nicole LaFave

Mixed Media Design Message

March 01, 2010  |  BY Nicole LaFave

In the News: Beachy Cream Identity

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

Branding & Packaging Design