A Thai street food cart located in Eugene, Oregon. This was a full brand startup package with a new logo, photography & so much more.


This got personal

Little Thai Elephant is a small Thai street food cart located in Eugene, Oregon that is relatively new. It is a spin-off of its parent restaurant (Lucky Thai Elephant) over in Newport, Oregon. With a smaller, more simplified kitchen. So, that translates to a smaller, more simplified menu. Where this gets personal for me is, I quit my day job to be a part of this one. I started working with a business partner with Thai decent, and we built this brand from the ground up. I used to work for a big beer company, where I worked in the marketing department. I managed a group of creatives inside a localized print shop for the Pacific Northwest region. I then managed the logistics of getting materials out to the Pacific Northwest market.

With this new project at Little Thai Elephant, I was able to showcase all my skills that I have built over my entire career, both at the big beer company and what I have been doing here on the side all along. With this one, I pushed myself further than ever before, trying to make this project the best one I have ever worked on. After all, I should, right? This is my baby, finally something for me. No cap on a price, time spent, nor deadlines.

It started with a name, which was difficult. We needed something somewhat cohesive between our parent restaurant and our individual cart. Yet far enough to not be the same. This would be to extend the footprint of Lucky Thai Elephant Restaurant fans from the coast. We still get a lot of customers to this day, stopping in for dinner, that have been long friends and fans. This was all part of the marketing strategy. Once we landed on the name, we started working on a logo. When I created the logo, I worked closely with my business partner on what it needed. It needed to be inviting, playful, colorful and have some Thai heritage involved. We wanted playful and inviting because it wasn't a 5-star dining experience. It's a food truck, and most people associate food trucks with a hole-in-the-wall vibe with a sometimes dirty & grimy feel. We wanted to change that. So, be fun, friendly and let people know we are bright and clean. This also carried over into what specs the cart had when we began building it.

Countless Hours

Knowing my career with the big beer company would soon end, I began to focus all my spare time at home on my business. I spent several weeks developing a website that displayed the menu. Creating animations and interactions that felt modern, fast & fun. It's something you might not notice because the menu also looks clean and organized accompanied by a photo of the food. With each category having sub-categories, things could get messy. So, I made all link clicks auto scroll to their locations with ease. For example, when clicking Entrées it scrolls to the Entrées for you, then at the top, you have Noodles, Stir-fry, Fried Rice, etc. Click one of those sections and it smoothly scrolls to the sub-category. At any point if you want to go back or switch sections, the navigation stays pinned on the top with the same labels you interacted with below. If you scroll without clicking, the top navigation labels will be highlighted based on the active category you are in. This gives you fast browsing and enables a comfortable experience, all catering to the fun & friendly strategy. All other aspects of the website were thoughtful in the same way.

The trailer build was a large time-consuming process as well. We worked with Quality Trailers up in Portland, Oregon. Where we toured their facility and asked several questions. The questions lead to deep conversation about the possibilities of our needs. From then, our conversations began to be more regular, via email, phone & more trips to Portland. We eventually would land on a final schematic of electrical, plumbing, fire suppression and so much more. Most importantly the kitchen appliances and their arrangement alongside the arrangement of storage. We created a great kitchen flow from grabbing produce to prep, cook, garnish then out the window. I did have some involvement in drawing up graphics to send to the manufacturer. This is the other side of graphic design that doesn’t get the good spotlight. I used my design program to design the trailer to scale and re-arrange items to maximize space.

A lot of the trailer design was based around our playful and inviting strategy. Envision people walking up to the food cart with their suspicions or doubts, or maybe even just indifference. We wanted to grab attention and change people’s minds. So, we have a TV located on the side you walk up to, to showcase graphics boasting about menu items with photos. Then a big window you can look into and see all of the clean stainless-steel walls & appliances, with a crew wearing our branded gear. To this day we have got a lot of comments about this strategy working. Comments like, "This thing is like state of the art!" and "You guys must have a grueling cleaning checklist." or "The graphics you guys have are so cute, well done."

I've Grown

With this opportunity I have been able to grow as a graphic designer, as well as a person. This food cart has brought challenges that I never thought I would face, and I overcame them. I was able to flex my marketing skills as well as learn what it's like from the business side. Spending my own dollars and wanting to see a return on my investment. I know what you’re thinking, oh this is where he figures out its why people don’t want to spend money on him doing their graphics. No, not at all. Most of our success comes from the food and its recipes, but no one would have anything to associate or remember their experience by if it weren’t for the vibe and graphics we created. It is a 50-50 partnership success. If I didn't dedicate myself to that, we would only be just another Thai food truck in town.

This position that I hold at Little Thai Elephant doesn't just stop with the graphics. I actually work on the food truck. I am the manager of the employees and I work the window. Actually lately, I have been dabbling with a little of the kitchen work as well. Going from behind a desk and on my computer most of the day to standing, interacting with customers and working in the kitchen has enabled me to grow. I've grown way outside of my previous comfort zone, and I was once again the new kid. I had to have patience with myself, which is tough because I'm a perfectionist, and when I started, I was far from perfect.

I took my management skills from the corporate world and used them to manage the employees of a small, family-owned business. This was great because there are a lot of bureaucratic walls when working for a big corporation that disabled me from running things optimally. This allowed me to be a lot more personable and create good friendships within the business. Just one tout to the inviting and playful vibes at Little Thai Elephant.