Digital signage is an evolving medium. It is an interesting mix of the traditional and the new age. While the concept of a sign is as old as civilisation itself, a linked digital communications platform is something entirely new.
The digital age has brought an untold number of new opportunities to artists. In the 1600s an artist might sculpt clay or paint on large canvas. Today, some of the best artists are creating digital animations or designing apps.
The right designs are as aesthetically oriented as they are utilitarian. This necessity for form and function means that experienced professionals rely on a tightly knit group of core concepts to create masterpieces that pass internal review and look amazing in the field. What if you are not a digital design expert but have a network of digital signs you are tasked with creating content for — where do you start?
Do your research
The first facet of creating the perfect digital communication design is research. Start with a brand style guide and required content. Most organisations have brand guidelines and these are important for gaining insight into the colours and visual style considered acceptable by your company. If a brand guide is unavailable, it is a good idea to create one. Use the guide to define colour schemes, fonts and rules around logo usage for your digital signage.
Next, think about what you are trying to communicate and consider how that information is currently shared. Who is the audience? What are the important messages and content? Which systems/feeds will the data and information on the digital signs come from?
Create a realistic outline
Outline exactly what kind of content is going to be included in the digital content solution. This provides insight into the scope of the project and how the material will be seen. One approach is to use a content matrix that you fill out with a comprehensive list of the different type of content each screen will display. This is important for designing the layouts for different screen sizes.
Sketch it out
Now comes the fun part. Start brainstorming potential ideas and putting pen to paper. It is a good idea to come up with several alternative designs and get input early in the process. Once the general details are mapped out, it is important to set a timeline to keep the project on track.
Once you have agreed on the deliverables and rough outlines, start to research fonts. It is common to use San Serif fonts for headings and pair them with Serif fonts for body copy. Also, be sure to consider casing. When our eyes see all upper-case letters, it can be harder for them to make out the shape of the word because the texts become all blocks.
Put yourself in the observer’s shoes
Keep viewing distance in mind when creating your final design. A 2.5cm (1 inch) high font size is visible from around 6-7.6m (20-25 feet). Think about where your audience will be standing and how they will be interacting with the message. Pixel density and monitor size also play crucial roles in the final visibility of the design. Use simple colour contrasts and avoid overwhelming your audience. There is a fine line between a design that ‘pops’ and one that is an eyesore.
Put it all together
Gather all of your mockups and get feedback. Ask yourself: Have I explored ideas fully? Have I given every idea I had a chance? Get some feedback. What do people like? What do people not like. Don’t take the feedback personally, think of it as all objective.
Afterwards, finalise the mockups for every single screen size. I do these in Photoshop at 72 dpi, 1920 x 1080p aspect ratio. Then it is time to start building. Think about how much of this can you can do in your digital signage software, and how it can make this task easier. Now you should be ready to publish some killer designs.