Checklist for Creating Content for Digital Signage

DESIGNERS. Digital signage is quickly becoming a mainstream advertising medium. Simply look around in retail stores, shopping malls, arenas, gas stations, hotel lobbies, restaurants, and you’re likely to see one or more digital signs.

If you haven’t yet been asked to create content for digital signage, you may be soon. Digital signs are becoming more popular partly because they can display many more advertising messages (more content!) than a single, printed sign.

Users of digital signs quickly learn that the quality and the creativity of the content on the sign really matters. In the foreword to an e-book on “Content and Content Management for Digital Signage,” Digital Signage Today editor James Bickers notes that the best digital signage hardware and software will fail spectacularly if used to deliver weak, boring, or poorly designed content.

To help ensure that your creative ideas will meet your client’s needs, the digital-signage experts at Keywest Technology have developed the following checklist to help marketing managers provide clear instructions when asking a designer to produce content for digital signage.

Clearly state what you wish to accomplish. Explain precisely how the signs are to be used. Will they be informational in nature? Do you want to sell a product or service with the signs? Is the communication mission straightforward like that of a menu board? Or is the mission more nuanced?

Define your target audience. Provide as much demographic and psychographic information about your intended viewers as possible What is the age range, sex, and ethnic background of the intended viewer? What are their interests, attitudes and opinions?

Identify where the signs will be located. Giving your creative team this information will inform decisions they make later about the appearance, placement and dwell time of content they will create.

Explain desired quality. In today’s world, it is hard to imagine that the display or displays to be used won’t be HDTVs. But even if that’s the case, will they be 720p, 1080i or even 1080p displays? That information will be helpful when content is created and may reduce the need for up, down or cross conversion of video, graphics and animation content.

Prevent visual spam. Because digital signage is becoming more common, the level of “visual noise” is also increasing. This should be considered along with the sensibilities of the target demographic. Work with designers to create a pleasing visual environment that will be more readily received by a discerning audience. Avoid excessive in-your-face content that may work against the shopping experience by overloading the senses. Too much eye candy is not a good thing –it can give eye pain.

Define duration. On a macro level, your messaging will be used for a finite period before it must be updated or changed entirely. On a micro level, individual pieces of content will dwell on the screen before being updated by the next item in the list. Provide duration information about both types of messaging. This will help your team create content that can accomplish its communications task in its allotted onscreen time, while building a workable schedule for producing future content.

Discuss the number of onscreen zones desired. Give your team a rough idea of how many discrete areas of onscreen real estate you envision being used to communicate your message. Suggest what you believe should be communicated in each zone. But don’t consider this the last word on the topic. Instead, use your initial vision as a starting point to discuss and ultimately define how many zones will actually be used.

Identify existing content resources. While you will want your content to be fresh, engaging and designed to meet your communications goals, there is no sense reinventing the wheel when existing resources can be used or repurposed. For example, if you plan to use a digital sign to communicate to owners of high-performance cars while they wait in a car dealer’s service area, you might consider using an existing RSS feed of Formula One, Indy Car and NASCAR race results and news for an onscreen crawl.

If you have worked on digital signage projects before, do you think this checklist is complete? Is there additional information you wish more clients would provide before you start working on a digital sign project?

Keywest Technology is a leading provider of interactive digital signage software and players.  The company’s website includes a variety of case studies and white papers related to the many different uses of digital signs.


About Keywest Technology

White Paper: Content and Content Management for Digital Signage

Fast-Growing Digital Signage Market Needs Top-Notch Design

DESIGNERS. Digital signage is quickly gaining favor as a powerful new medium for advertising, information display, and entertainment. According to a recent report by Global Industry Analysts, the global digital signage market will grow to $13.8 billion by 2017. While the retail sector remains the prime end-user of digital signage technology, the GIA analysts expect growth to occur in other market segments such as financial services, transportation, and hospitality.

Some digital signage systems are being sold as end-to-end solutions, encompassing installation, consulting, content creation, content management, and support. But in a post on Digital Signage Today, BrightSigns CEO Jeff Hastings explains why “Using Professional Digital Content Developers Just Makes Sense.”

Although some budget-conscious small business owners might prefer using turnkey, ‘in-the-box” software and design templates to create, schedule, update, and monitor high-definition displays, Hastings points out that, “The content displayed on the digital sign is by far the most important in determining the success or failure of the digital signage.”

He advises hiring professional content developers who know how to use tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, Cinema 4D and Maya for motion graphics, and Final Cut with video editing. With these tools, creative pros can use content that can be used not just for digital signage, but also for websites, advertising, brochures, and mobile marketing.

For example, the image below shows how moving images on a backwall display are closely tied to the images on freestanding and tabletop displays. Hastings points out that audiences have come to expect top-notch visuals.

Photo courtesy of BrightSign:

He writes, “Today’s sophisticated consumers have higher expectations when it comes to the messaging media they view. Since most consumers still watch a tremendous amount of TV network programming and Hollywood movies, they have an expectation of highly produced content.”

In his post, Hastings quotes Kirk VanderLeest, vice-president of the video-production house Flixio, in Oregon City, Oregon: “Basically, digital signage is all about the content, and the last thing you want to do is to be limited by the creation software for your final content. We recommend having professional content developers create the absolute best content they can, and then let the digital signage software do what it’s good for–distributing and managing the content.”

As demand for digital signage grows, so will opportunities for designers. When we asked Flixio Creative Director McKay Marshall about what types of skills he would look for when hiring new creatives, he told us: “Because the boundaries of digital signage change daily, we’re looking for creatives who can think “outside the frame.” Gone are the days of 4:3 aspect ratios, and 16:9 formats are becoming more and more nebulous. Sometimes it’s rocked over on its side. Sometimes it’s joined by a wall of 30 other screens. Being able to ideate independent of one particular format creates separation among designers, and delineates the success of companies.”

Marshall offered this advice for creatives who might want to get into the digital signage field: “Focus on what it is that you look at as you go throughout your day. You can learn a lot about what works in design by being cognizant of where your own attention is spent. Remember that digital signage differs from other motion and time-based mediums in that it is first and foremost a sign. Work out your design as a static concept, then bring it into animation after it succeeds as a still image.”


Digital Signage Today: Using Professional Digital Content Developers Just Makes Sense

Press Release: Global Digital Signage Market to Reach $13.8 Billion by 2017