[Seminar in Taiwan: Digital Signage] Shakr in Taiwan!

Shakr met with Taiwan partnership foxconn's designers for a seminar.

This seminar was on making templates for Digital Signage that is currently popular in malls, hospitals, restaurants, jewel shop etc. The administrator of Sixteen-Nine.net Dave Haynes, who has diverse experiences on Digital Signage, joined us in this trip to Taiwan and shared his tips.







Most digital signage networks feature audiences that are moving and have viewers that rarely stop to “watch” content. They glance at it. Most view screens from 5-15 feet away, sometimes further. Only a fraction of screens use audio.





Most networks do not use audio. The screens are in areas where constantly repeating audio messages would upset the people working there, and where general noise would make it difficult for audio to be heard.  Digital sign messages should not be designed to include interviews or "talking heads", or have elements of the message built around audio. In other words, if the background music or a spoken statement are critical for the ad to be understood, it is often inappropriate for a digital signage network.



Viewability is critical. Most people seeing digital signs see them at a distance, so the fonts need to be large enough to read from across a room. San serif fonts that are not decorative should always be used. If using white for the font color, use drop shadows or stroke the edges to make the text jump, particularly when the background may be light.





In most cases, digital signs are glanced at. They are not watched the same way as television commercials are watched. The amount of words on a screen at any time should be limited to seven or less.  However, template designs should not constrain the character count to one or two words if the design seems to allow four or five words. If the design and motion allows words that can stretch across a screen, build that into the design. The user can always reduce the word count, but will be frustrated if the template restricts the word count when it does not need to and space is available.





Designs should limit the visuals in single sequences. Try to just have a single focal point at any given time, except when quick shifting visuals are part of the energy of the design. A layout should have a focal point and that emphasized visual should not have to complete with a lot of other visuals.



The most common times are 15 and 30 seconds. 60-second messages are rare, as few digital sign environments involve people standing or sitting to watch for that length of time. In most cases, people are moving. Do not just design to an arbitrary length, such as 22 seconds or 38 seconds. Most digital sign systems use scheduling based on 10, 15 and 30-second increments, and a 22-second spot creates a scheduling problem.



Use high contrast colors to increase readability of text, such as black on yellow. Keep color choices neutral where possible, because color is often important to a company's brand image. So a design that is heavily green may be rejected by a company whose logo and design is orange or red. Designs that use neutral colors like charcoal, or primary colors, will prove more acceptable. One option is to render versions in multiple colors. If your design will often be using images with white backgrounds, such as product shots, frame the images so they pop from the background, and don’t have white squares on light grey backgrounds.



Roughly 80 per cent of ads are used on landscape screens, but 1 in 5 are in portrait, replacing printed posters with digital. For ads that are promoting things like movies, theatres and retail sales, consider making portrait versions of templates.



Remember the user group for Shakr may not have any image editing skills. So designs should factor in how to soften the edges of photos, and should not rely on users creating transparent PNGs. So a product photo with a white background will probably be used with that white background intact, and the user will not have the skills to eliminate the white background and make it transparent. The result is white on gray, which will not look good. If the type of template lends itself to product shots from online – such as apparel or electronics – factor the white image backgrounds into your design, and use contrasting video template backgrounds.





Remember this is advertising, and the reason people will select your templates is because they believe using them will help them sell goods or services. That means you need to ensure there is enough time at the end of a message to see the most important elements – name of company (and logo) and location (online or physical). These should be on the screen long enough, at the end, for people to read and remember. They can’t just blink on and off in milliseconds.


Advertisers want their logo on the screen, definitely at the end and often all the way through, on a baseline bar along the bottom. Factor in logo positions that will accept squares, circles and elongated rectangles. Assume most logos have white backgrounds, so design the logo positions accordingly.



Marketers like to have strong statements, known as Calls To Action, that encourage viewing consumers to do something after they see the message. That might be, Buy Yours Now! Or Ask Us How! Or Get Your Sample! Or it may be a message that create some urgency, like Supplies Are Limited! Or TICKETS WON’T LAST! Ads should be designed to not only create awareness and interest, but trigger a response.



Your messages have the potential to be used globally, which means more sales. When designing, factor in the demonstration text and design elements you use should make sense and be attractive globally, and not just in your culture.




Digital signage may look like TV, but its viewing dynamics and design have more in common with billboard and poster advertising. Pay attention to effective billboards – they usually have strong visuals and limited text – and use that work as inspiration. Research shows attention spans for people are constantly growing shorter because of all the technology options out there. Respect that and work with it, as opposed to thinking what you create will grand and hold people’s attention. That works for online video, but will find even online videos rarely hold people’s attention for very long.




Prepared by:

Dave Haynes

Spotomate, a Shakr Media partner

Nov. 2014