Vehicle Graphics in the Days Before Digital

"The simplicity of decal application was one of the factors which made the simplified process of identification possible."

The following is an inspirational tale from the vaults. Screen Printing (then called Screen Process) published a case study in its August, 1954 edition about how the city of Tacoma, WA used this venerable approach to graphics production to tackle the "complex problem of identifying and numbering, departmentally and serially, all the motor vehicles and equipment owned by the city of Tacoma." The story unfolds as follows:

"The simplicity of decal application was one of the factors which made the simplified process of identification possible. One standard design was run as a decal, for identification of city owned equipment. The decal included a bordered blank panel at the bottom of the design.

"Each of the five separate city department names were supplied on several decals. They were accompanied by a separate sheet of decal numbers, 1 through 0, and a series of dashes. Since each vehicle of piece of equipment was to carry the name of the department responsible, a serial number indicating the type of equipment for record purposes, and a separate serial number identifying the particular piece of equipment, and a department number, according to a numbering system, the solution to the problem lay merely in the application of the basic design, then the department name, then the proper code or serial numbers.

"The numbers thus applied are used through all the accounting, operation cost records, repair, assignment and dispatch records, for the entire life of the specific equipment to which they are assigned, thus giving a complete control of all operations in which the equipment might figure during its useful life as well as a complete record of expenses, which could influence the purchase of new equipment when it is required.

"Not only has a unique and valuable service been rendered to the city government by the screen printing industry through its representative Cole & Redmayne, but they have consented to the publication of the idea which automatically reveals thousands of such prospective screen process jobs over the country."

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