Signage, whether it be analog or digital, is at its foundation a form of advertising. The intention of most signs is to attract people to come closer, capture those same people with the content on display, and send customers, consumers, or the general public on their way with a call to action. An idea or product is advertised, and viewers are meant to act accordingly based on prompts and cues included within the signage.
Signage can be simple or complex, intricate or unsubtle, but the secret to successful signage remains the same: intelligent, intentional design. This is especially true for digital signage in today’s marketing world.
A new era of communication and information gathering
Static signage has long been the avenue through which consumer-facing messages have been shared and cleverly crafted for decades, and static messaging helped pave the way for today’s dynamic advertising and information dissemination strategies. Hand-drawn lettering, simple-yet-impactful design, and artistic, unmoving signage elements still serve their purpose across the industry spectrum, but modern digital signage solutions give both businesses and consumers a cornucopia of exciting new options.
Well-designed digital signage elements created to attract and serve a specific audience will outperform poorly designed, broadly focused static advertising every time. But even with an expansive digital signage toolbox at your fingertips, basic design principles and concepts still determine signage success in the modern marketplace. Balance of composition, guiding the eye, and providing relevant content in an aesthetically pleasing design are all part of the digital signage puzzle. Putting the pieces together is your job, but digital signage experts are here to help make the assembly intuitive and exciting.
Design musts for compelling digital signage
It never hurts to brush up on basic principles of visual design to help understand what makes great design so compelling. Elements like (but not limited to) proximity, alignment, repetition, scale/proportion, contrast, color, and space all serve to enhance visual design and create a desired effect. Finding a balance where basic design principles complement without overshadowing content is the name of the game. Here are a few things to look for and keep in mind when creating content that tactfully mixes the right design elements with your message for maximum impact:
Signage and motion are a marriage made in advertising heaven. The notion of adding motion to marketing and advertising signage is not a new one, however digital technology changed the way it’s done. Motion graphics and integrated video capabilities turn kiosks and consoles into entertainment centers and personal digital assistants. Simply put, motion incorporated into design is one of the elements that elevates digital signage above its static predecessors.
Implied motion: Think back to visual design basics. Directional cues from line weight or shape orientation, repeating features, the shape/size of objects, and retreating to a focal point can give the impression of motion to an otherwise static design.
Video: Incorporating video into digital signage design is an effective way to share information or product details without spelling out the information in text. Video is also a quick and easy method for catching the consumer’s eye.
Interactivity: Digital signage in innovative spaces plays with the idea of interactivity and giving the viewer/user more control. Motion spurred by interaction from a passerby or a digital signage user is a fun way to engage.
Digital signage, no matter where it’s used or for what purpose, needs to function in a way that guides and engages. Successful digital signage implementations bypass the Point A to Point B mindset and instead present users with dynamic, real-time insight into a space, product, or service. Digital signage design must:
Engage the viewer
Guide the eye
Find the natural focal point
Adopt an asymmetrical layout to add interest
Balance the composition
These design objectives can be achieved through static visual elements (photos, text, use of white space) accompanied by digital complements (video, motion graphics, sequential animations). That said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect digital signage design, so it’s crucial that design function and aesthetics don’t overshadow content and intention.
Digital signage content is just as important as the design elements, and finding that compositional balance is as much about aesthetics as it is content presentation.
Relevant content: Give viewers/consumers/users access to the most relevant information possible at the point of contact. This may be directions, instructions, menu items, personnel data, or any of the in-betweens — this information directly impacts digital signage engagement. Again, flashy graphics and attractive design do nothing for function if relevant content isn’t readily available.
Concise communication: Relevant information may be on the screen, but it’s unusable if presented in a way that’s jargon-laden or overburdened with addons. Clear, concise communication is an invaluable design element.
Updates: Digital signage is quickly forgotten if all it ever displays is Tuesday’s lunch menu from three months ago. The dynamic nature of digital signage solutions makes them ideal for real-time, up-to-date information dissemination. This kind of timely information presentation can be implemented into design to make it something viewers look for every day or every hour (think weather or travel updates).
Balancing the expected and the innovative
Breaking the static plane, in both design and function, has propelled digital signage into multiple industry spaces. It’s this toeing the line between analog and digital—playing with the space between motion and stillness and incorporating elements of both modern and traditional design—that makes digital signage an exciting solution for personalized consumer expectations. Digital signage continues to evolve, and it’s asymmetrically thinking innovators, architects, and designers that find successful new ways to use the technology.
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