Design & Price: Lettering for a 16-ft. trailer

By signcraft

Posted on Saturday, November 25th, 2023

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In every issue, SignCraft gave a few sign makers an imaginary project. We asked them to do a sketch of the sign they might have produced and to quote a price for the job. Most of the details were left to the designer’s imagination. The object is to see how different sign makers approach the same project. Here’s the scenario these sign makers were given:

A growing local motorcycle shop has started a racing team and purchased a black 16-ft. enclosed trailer. They would like to add graphics to it, but they don’t have a logo yet. They plan on using the trailer as part of their marketing campaign and want it to be a real eye-catcher.

They like the idea of including a sprocket or checkered flag, and plan to use your artwork to update the look of their Web page. Make a sketch of the design you might have designed for the customer and quote a price.

This appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of SignCraft. While the prices have been adjusted for inflation, they may not accurately reflect current pricing for such signage.


Mike Chamberlin, Vital Signs, Verona, Wisconsin

Design: $350

Trailer sides: $4000

Back: $700

Total: $5050

The logo could be purchased separately for $850.

Once we have received the basic information for the trailer, we take a digital photo of it and collect a deposit before starting the design work. It’s nice to have the photo to do the design work on. It helps the customer get an accurate idea of what the trailer will look like when completed.

For this design, the logo is digitally printed, and the secondary copy and website address are cut vinyl. The rivets in the trailer are removed for installation and put back after the vinyl is installed.


Bill Conrad, Conrad Signs, Inc., Geneva, Ohio

I usually begin by speaking with clients to get an idea of what they’re looking for and what their budget is for the project. That way I know what size and different types of applications I will use to fit that budget.

I never do a drawing without a deposit. On several occasions customers have walked in with drawings from other sign companies; I explain to them that I will not use any form of another designer’s drawing. Likewise, I don’t want to spend time on a drawing and end up not getting the job.

Design A:

This version would be all high-performance vinyl copy and striping, except for the flag graphic. That graphic would be sprayed with the fade effect then clear coated with urethane.

The total cost of this project for sides and rear of trailer would be $4250 plus sales tax. If they wanted to save a little money on Option One, I could do the flag in solid white vinyl. That would lower the cost to $3050 plus sales tax.

Design B:

This one would be resized for budget. Although they wanted an eye-catching trailer (and I think Option One has more impact, by the way), the cost may be too much for them.

So I changed a couple things and dropped the painted graphics. The total cost for Option Two, with high-performance vinyl, would be $2150 plus sales tax.

If they didn’t have a logo and wanted to use this design for their website, T-shirts and other printed material, I would charge them $225 for the simple design in a couple of different file formats.


Troy Dawson, Art & Sign FX, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Materials – digital prints: $1650

Avery vinyl film: $768

Sales tax: $152

Logo – simple logo design: $150

Labor – Trailer design, 3 hours: $325

Installation – 12 man hours (two installers, 6 hours each): $1275

Total: $4320

This motorcycle shop wants to use this trailer as part of their marketing campaign. My objective, therefore, is to give them a rolling billboard. The focus is primarily on the graphic image of the motorcycle. People see it and remember it.

Typically our logo design fees are billed hourly. After completing a logo design we will often lay out business cards, letterhead and create a T-shirt design. We have a good relationship with a local printer and screen printer, so we take the orders and sub the printing and T-shirts out.

The motorcycle graphic is a digital print produced on our Roland SolJet II and printed on 3M Controltac film. The checkered flag is also printed on the SolJet and is wrapped around all four sides of the trailer. All the lettering is Avery high-performance vinyl film. The installation for this job should take two installers about six hours.


Chris Lovelady, Vital Signs, Tallahassee, Florida

Summa print – 2 sides: $2700

Design time – 1 hour: $120

Install: $920

Total: $3740

After meeting the customer and discussing what they are looking for, I learned that they want this trailer to really pop—and are not interested in cutting corners to save money. We use the striping as part of the design so that it can also be used on the tow vehicle to tie the whole package together.

After reviewing a couple of quick sketches with the customer, we get a basic idea of what they’re looking for. We generally take photos of the trailer and place our graphics on the picture—that lets us show the customer exactly what they’ll get before we begin production. In this case we do not have access to the trailer, so we used a graphic from the Pro Vehicle Outlines collection to make our presentation.

We instruct the customer to wash the trailer, but we will degrease it before the graphics are installed. After the deposit is collected and our estimate contract is signed, we begin by sending off the proof via e-mail to be approved.

With a trailer like this, there are usually screws, not rivets, that hold the panels on. We figure extra time to remove the screws and replace them after the graphics are installed. We bid this job as a digitally-printed job and added the scratch coat (using a clear ribbon on our Summa thermal printer) to help with potential abrasion issues.


David Showalter, David Design, Bryan, Ohio

Logo design: $575

Labor and material to letter the trailer:

Design A: $3100

Design B: $2550

We would have the owner bring the trailer to the shop and allow three to four days for the work to be completed. We also get a 50% deposit before scheduling the job; the logo design would already be completed and approved by this stage.

We would ask that the sides of the trailer be clean and free of wax. We would prep both sides with a paint and metal cleaner before starting.

All graphics would be masked, cut and rolled with lettering enamel. All text would be done in high-performance vinyl film.