digital signage content

How to layout your digital signage content

There’s more to good digital signage content than bright colours, fancy fonts and loads of information.

Content can consist of text, still images, video and animation, tickers (scrolling text for news, weather, sport etc), and all of these need to be tailored for the platform, considering typeface, colour, logos and other imagery.

The layout of the display is vitally important; this is the time to get creative. The traditional ‘L’ shaped layout with video top left, text down the right and ticker along the bottom is tried and tested, but is somewhat old-hat. These layouts also tend to be rather ‘boxy’. However, with a little creative thought, the box edges can be turned into graceful curves to enhance the overall look. This is done through the use of layers. Similar to those used in Photoshop, a layer can be created to sit ‘above‘ some content, and, by creating a transparent centre with curved edges, the video or graphic underneath can be seen but without the usual ‘squareness’.

The breaking up of the screen into ‘zones’ can work well, if you have a great deal of information to share. However, this comes with a warning: too much going on within the layout at any one time creates confusion, and won’t engage your audience. We’ve even seen some layouts with three tickers scrolling at the same time – which one do you read first?

Each zone has its own properties and these can run independent of the others, or be connected. Zones can be set up to have the ability to become transparent, that is to say, invisible. This is a really useful way of scheduling content in zones, but at the same time retaining the ability to show some content full-screen, simply by setting that layer to become visible at certain times.

The use of zones too can include ‘trigger’ windows, meaning that when one item of content plays, another action occurs – for example, TV channels change or a specific audio file begins playing. This triggering is used to show the correct subtitles to a video or a call to action in a ticker.

Full screen
To add some variety, consider showing some of your content in full-screen mode. This can grab the attention and create the greatest impact. We say, some of your content, because there are times when the type of message needs to have a screen with multiple zones and other times when it doesn’t.

The transition of content on a display from one to the other can be in itself an attracting feature. Most higher-end content management systems have the ability to add transitions when moving from one item or screen layout to another, for example using dissolves, crossfades, zooms, wipes and so on. This can prove useful in achieving a more positive experience for the consumer and is fully automated once the content has been scheduled to play out.

Also known as crawls, these are the repeating lines of moving text, traditionally located towards the bottom of the layout, and which carry any RSS-based information, such as news headlines, sport updates, share prices, weather, travel updates and so on. The text can be coloured, as can the background, but ensure that you select two contrasting colours, and that the speed of the crawl is such that the text is easy to read. Too fast and it will be ignored; too slow and the viewer will get bored. If the crawl needs to be regularly updated, it will need to pick up the data via the player’s network connectivity.

‘Look’ Creation
The basic layout of the screen – the key elements of screen furniture – can be created with an application such as Photoshop. Ensure that when starting, select File, New and select from the presets for HDTV to ensure that the content created is taking full advantage of the screen’s HD capabilities. When creating your display, make sure to stand five or six feet back from the monitor to replicate how the content will look in situ.

When all of these elements are combined, the display’s basic ‘look’ is in place and then it’s a question of sourcing the right content created at the correct resolution to engage the audience and sell your products or services.

Discover the digital signage that could help your business stand out from the crowd

Tips for digital signage design
1) Contrast and colour
It’s easy for people without formal art training to get colour choices wrong. Avoid colours with similar hues, such as red on green, or colours with a similar tint, like white on yellow. Make sure you have enough contrast so your text is legible (and also viewable by people with poor eyesight or colour blindness). What looked good close up on your PC monitor might not read well on a display on location. The better the contrast, the better the legibility: if in doubt, use dark text on a pale background.

2) The 3 x 5 rule
There is a real art to communicating your message clearly and succinctly. Too much text becomes cluttered and indecipherable, especially at a distance. Keep the type size large and try to limit yourself to three lines of five words each, or five lines of three words each – this will ensure your message is always concise and legible. 

3) Choice of type
It’s easy to get carried away when designing your first signage, with so many typefaces to choose from. But as a rule of thumb, never use more then two typefaces on screen at once, avoid script or hand-written typefaces, and use italics sparingly as they can become hard to read at a distance. You can use serif typefaces – such as Times – as they may well sit better with your brand, but on balance san-serif type is easier to read on large displays. Don’t be afraid to use bold and light type to add hierarchy and emphasis.

4) Focus
As with a painting, poster or magazine cover, you need to lead the eye around your sign. Brightly coloured and contrasting elements grab the attention first, so use them to highlight key elements, and then lead the viewer to other areas of the display. When designing your content, leave it alone for a day or two and then come back to see how your eye travels around the design – or try it out on others before going live.


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