Ziris Canvas from Sony is a great example of how digital signage form and function can work harmoniously. But there’s a science to achieving success, as our guidelines explain.

Know your viewers and understand how they view

It is commonplace in the art world to hear the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. However, we should not judge the value of digital signage on looks alone. That’s because creating digital signage content is not an artistic endeavour but a purposeful, commercial process – whereas conventional art typically serves a less commercial and sometimes more indulgent purpose. “Whilst digital signage networks have a commercial role to play, if content isn’t interesting, informative, useful and engaging, viewers won’t view.”

The science of digital signage

This article, therefore, is not about exploring digital signage content as an art form, but the science of digital signage – that is, how to go about creating this content, its function (the screens) and its purpose (outward communication) –

Firstly, let’s understand that digital signage has quite a hard job to do. Often it is required to engage viewers who are physically and mentally active on more pressing tasks such as walking, talking, shopping, planning and so forth; processes which take up a proportion of the human brain’s processing ability.

Secondly, the viewers are also assaulted by competing stimuli; the sights, sounds and smells of daily life and other marketing paraphernalia all vie for their attention. So, the best way to counter this is to ensure that digital signage content is always ready to engage the viewer.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help you create your most effective digital signage content.

Start by defining who your viewers are

You need to build a picture of what they do when they visit a venue or a store. This information can then be used to create profiles or groups of viewers to enhance your content creation and screen placement strategy. The better the profile, the more specific and relevant your network will be, the higher the likelihood your potential customers will view your content, and therefore the more opportunity you have of successfully commercializing the network.

Thoroughly research who visits a particular venue, including when and how often

Does the type of audience change throughout the day, across a week and how frequently do they visit? Use existing customer or visitor data if you can.

Understand how viewers interact with the built environment around them

How does the environment influence the way in which they move through the physical space? This has a direct bearing on any potential design of the signage network (what screens you place where) and the form and function of screen content, namely its message composition and duration.

A 30-second commercial will fail to deliver its message if viewers in proximity to that screen walk by in 5 seconds, so match the time viewers are in proximity to the screens to message length. This may change throughout the venue; so ask simple questions such as whether the venue lends itself to different types of zones to cater for different viewers or viewing habits which may influence content design.

Match the frequency of the overall programme repetition to that of the visiting frequency to the venue

If 90% of potential viewers visit the venue once a week, your content should refresh weekly to ensure that those viewers see fresh content each time they visit. Existing research will tell you that unnecessary repetition is not what viewers want and certainly not what venue staff would like, so avoid this as best you can. Where a message needs reinforcing, use a variety of creative treatments to reduce viewer fatigue.

Be an expert in your marketplace

Viewers are receptive to digital signage when it provides helpful and useful information to assist them in making better decisions. This is often characterised through content designed to offer advice, hints and tips. Perhaps tell viewers about the history of a brand, the venue or the products or provide them with ‘coming soon’ information and help viewers understand that the brand or venue is an expert on that subject matter. Sometimes this content is not overtly commercialized and this can provide viewers with much needed ‘breathing space’ between commercial messages (think if this as a reverse of traditional TV viewing).

Make it interesting, informative, useful and engaging

Whilst digital signage networks have a commercial role to play, if content isn’t interesting, informative, useful and engaging, viewers won’t view – so find ways to inject styles, interest pieces and humour either in the content itself or in the way it is presented where appropriate. Use existing design tools to help emphasise mood and texture; bright colours elicit positive responses, sombre colours express authority and seriousness. Animation helps draw the eye but too much can be confusing, so a balance is best.

Be seen – and make screens and content work in harmony

Digital signage content is only relevant if it can be seen and understood, so network design must consider placing the optimum size and number of screens to allow the optimum number of viewers to view content clearly and without hindrance.

Lastly, a key element of the science of digital signage relates to the creation of a network design that integrates the medium (screens) and the media (content) harmoniously. When this integrated design is working well, this increases messaging effectiveness which means the sum is greater than the parts. The Ziris Canvas multi-screen football style design, as shown in the photograph, is a great example of form and function working harmoniously. Here, the practical science of the digital signage display is as evident as the art of creating the content; an excellent example that demonstrates that when science and design come together, the result could be seen by the viewer as wholly artistic,