Design on Wheels

A Friday evening Off the Grid event at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Lately there’s been a real zeitgeist of food truck cuisine in San Francisco. It’s taking the long tradition of East-coast dirty-water hot dog vendors and halal trucks and the West coast taco truck and taking it to a whole new locavore-hybrid level.

There’s all kinds of exotic menu options rolling out daily — from crème brulee to Korean burritos. No food style is too precious, and no ethnic cuisine too sacred to cross-pollinate.

Well I, for one, salute the advent of the new-school food truck. It’s evidence of one of the things I love best about my hometown — that when you conveniently have a melting pot of wonderful variety at your disposal, you should feel free to experiment and mix-and-match to create something new and maybe better.

And being a San Francisco phenomenon, in a city where you could casually toss a rock in the air and hit a designer, these trucks are eye-catching and distinctive with nicely designed graphics and clever logos. Nobody rolls out a new food truck concept without creating a fully-formed brand identity to help them stand out from the crowd.

Here are some of my favorites.

Chairman Bao Bun Truck

OK, let me just say that this is a beautiful truck. It’s graphic and bold using a limited three-color palette (thanks to artist James Jean). It’s distinctive, memorable and looks legit.

And the classic pen-and-inky portrait of the “Chairman” with a heroic far-sighted gaze is hilarious and really puts it over the top for me.

Curry Up Now

Here’s another bright, bold, un-ignorable truck. Once again, there’s a great use of color and pattern to give a clear Indian vibe. The riot of big patterns gives the whole truck a feeling of energy and celebration.

Their logo has actually undergone a transformation (thanks to Nicole Lafave at It maintains much of the spontaneous handmade quality of the first logo while successfully melding the ideas of India (with the Sanskrit-like top line on “curry”) and street vendor by putting the wheels on the words themselves and allowing them to form the picture. There’s no longer a need for a subhead.

Here’s the original for comparison’s sake.

The Brunch Box

I love the shades-of-gray wood grain and stacked Victorians by designer/illustrator Michael Jeter of

The logo by itself is fantastic as well. The shading and distressing detail in the lettering and illustration really adds a lot of personality.

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