I’ll wager you’ve never really given the graphics that adorn your caravan a second thought, apart from possibly musing, “That looks nice,” or something similar.

And what about the various warning markers, such as those on the gas lockers and so on, or VIN numbers, which these days are printed, rather than being stamped metal plates?

In the past, caravan makes have tried to get away from the conventional ‘white box’ image of the caravan by using a range of coloured sides, but badges were usually metal castings, and graphics were limited to small name badges in basic fonts.

I recently met up with Lee Robinson, Engineering Manager at CGI (the firm responsible for most caravan and motorhome graphics in the UK and Europe) at the Coachman factory. Lee gave me very informative insight into the company.

It all began back in the 1970s, with Terry Curtayne and Gordon Norman founding Curtayne and Norman in Bedford, a company producing specialist graphics for the marine industry.

Go-faster stripes

They realised that speedboats, then immensely popular, would look much better with go-faster stripes, bold names and so on. The firm soon became very well established in the sector.

By the late 1970s/early 1980s, caravanning was also becoming a very popular pastime.

Manufacturers were still trying to move away from that traditional ‘white box’ image, by experimenting with more aerodynamic shapes and (soon to be mandatory) plastic (and tinted) windows.

Curtayne and Norman’s sales manager had connections with the caravan industry and saw how the company’s services could benefit design and product development for brands such as Swift. The rest is history, as the saying goes.

Once established, and adding graphics not only to boats and caravans, but also to aircraft, cars and many other products, Curtayne and Norman changed its name to Graphicraft, which remained until 2003, when it became today’s CGI (Creative Graphics International).

Promotional material from its days as Graphicraft
Promotional material from its days as Graphicraft

At the end of that year, CGI also bought out a similar South African firm, and today, the company employs 69 people at the Bedford facility, and more than 150 in Cape Town.

Prestige badges

CGI supplies a wide range of world-class organisations with striking graphics, including Formula 1 racing, the QE2 and Concorde, as well as designing for leisure vehicle events, such as Bailey’s Arctic Adventure and Bristanbul trips.

It also works with motor manufacturers, airlines and engineering conglomerates.

In the 1990s, plastic injection mouldings became popular. This was a relatively low-cost option compared to the metal badging that was being used by many car makers at the time. This fact was not lost on caravan manufacturers either, and the practice of using injection-moulded company badges continues to this day.

Design options at CGI

In the past 10 years or so, the development of new materials, print and adhesive technologies has allowed CGI to offer leisure vehicle manufacturers a wider range of options for both design and coverage, with parts being engineered to fit and materials becoming much easier to apply and adjust as required.

This is not simply a case of caravan designers submitting their requirements, either, as CGI is involved throughout the design process, offering expert creative advice and working with brands to offer the very best solutions.

A member of the CGI design team works on graphics for the Coachman Acadia
A member of the CGI design team works on graphics for the Coachman Acadia

Lee says that CGI’s aim is to “create stunning designs that strengthen the brand values of our customers”.

So, which companies in the caravan and motorhome sector does CGI supply?

“Almost every caravan and motorhome has a set of decals applied in the factory, and in the UK and Continental Europe in particular, there’s a good chance they will have been supplied by CGI,” he adds.

After speaking with Lee, we visited the production line at Coachman Caravans to witness various graphics being applied to a batch of Laser 575 Xtra caravans. Adding the graphics is pretty much the final stage of tourer construction.

Coachman Laser 575 Xtra without graphics, badges and labels
A Coachman Laser 575 Xtra before receiving its array of graphics, badges and labels

Each van is supplied with a full set of graphics and badges, in the form of a kit. I must admit I am guilty of not really thinking about these before, and I was quite surprised when I saw front and wheel centre badges being applied. I assumed these came ready attached.

Person applying Coachman branding
Applying the iconic Coachman branding

The first graphics were for the front of the van, including the famous Coachman name above the front windows, the company badge, the LPG warning on the gas locker, and the ‘Xtra’ logo.

Person positioning the model’s ‘Xtra’ badge
Positioning the model’s ‘Xtra’ badge

Moving to the offside, basic measurements were marked out as guides before the main graphics were applied.

Person applying sticker
These days, new materials and adhesive technologies make application much easier

Another important thing that Lee pointed out to me was the fact that very small gaps are left around the windows.

He explained that at one time, the graphics went underneath the window rubbers and seals, but that caused problems if one of them needed to be removed for any reason.

Being manufactured as they are now makes these graphics much easier to remove. It is also, of course, simpler to affix new ones. Another bonus is that the materials used these days can help to eliminate air bubbles far more easily.

At the same time, graphics are applied to the nearside and rear of the caravan. CGI experts are always on hand should the manufacturers need them, so production time is not lost.

Completed Coachman Laser 575 Xtra
Coachman Laser 575 Xtra in all its finery!

Graphic enhancement at CGI

It’s amazing, the difference that graphics make to the end product; they are a genuine enhancement. If you see a caravan before the graphics are applied, it looks so bland. It’s something I won’t be taking for granted in future!

Creative Graphics International, 6-8 Singer Way, Woburn Road Industrial Estate, Kempston, Bedford MK42 7AW

  • Wondering how to find the right tourer for you? Our guide on how to buy a caravan will talk you through the crucial points to consider.

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