Design Principles for Content Creation
Technological innovations have provided artists and designers with an array of new and exciting opportunities. App design and digital animations were a distant possibility just a relatively short time ago and the world of digital signage is another example of a medium that has benefitted from a period of intense evolution.
When designing digital signage for your business, prioritising visual appeal and accessibility will ensure that your messaging reaches your desired audience and makes a positive impact in the process.
Let’s have a look at some of the considerations you’ll need to bear in mind when designing content for digital signage.
Do your Research
The first step in the creation of a considered and effective digital sign is research. Consulting your brand style guide and mapping out the content you want to include early on in the process will help you to create a refined and effective sign that can deliver the results you want to see.
- What you want to communicate
- How you are currently sharing similar information
- Who your audience is
- Which systems will be used in your final design
From here you can map out the scope of your project and ensure that you aren’t overlooking any key design possibilities that will enhance the delivery of your messaging.
Importantly, your signage should never feel like a chore to engage with. Judging the simplicity of your design can sometimes be tricky, so it is often a good idea to imagine that your average viewer will only have a handful of seconds to digest your message. If you don’t think your ideal audience will take away your sign's core message in this time, take it as an opportunity to further refine your design.
The human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text so, if possible, aim to integrate clear visuals that reinforce your message. You might also find it helpful to follow the 3x5 Rule, which limits the amount of text within your design to three lines, each with five or fewer words. The more you can say with images the better. Keep the text for conveying essential information only, like your brand name, pricing, offer dates, etc.
Always Design with Accessibility in Mind
Ensuring your message is accessible to all is key and there are a variety of techniques you can use and choices you can make to boost your accessibility. Your choice of text colour should contrast with your background, which will enhance the readability of your sign for people with a visual impairment.
Interactive content should be positioned between 36 and 42 inches from ground level and accommodating for factors including accessible entrances and stairs will pay dividends in the long run.
Putting yourself in the shoes of your observers will help you to select fonts that are fully legible both from a distance and at a glance.
San Serif fonts are often selected for headings because they are inherently readable. They also work well when paired with body copy in a Serif font if you want to incorporate some variation. Bold text can emphasise core points, however, italics should be avoided because they can be tricky to read at a glance. It is also important to carefully consider your choice of casing, as it can sometimes be more difficult to identify word shapes when they are in all upper-case.
Consider your Viewing Pattern
Understanding your sign's viewing pattern will shape your design to maximise the success of your messaging. There are three, which I’ve listed here.
1. Point of Transit
Signs placed in high traffic areas will often be viewed at a glance. As people within these areas will likely be moving quickly between two points, the time they will spend interacting with your sign will be brief. Keeping your messaging concise with the point of transit signs will drive the most positive results and designs should ideally be simple and sizeable.
Point of Transit signs are effective for:
- Event announcements
- Short calls to action
- Daily reminders
2. Point of Wait
This type of interaction typically occurs at service desks and in elevators, lobbies and waiting rooms. As viewing times are generally longer in these situations, you can introduce more substantial messaging into your design.
This viewing pattern lends itself well to interactive displays with engaging and informative content. Scrollable pages and searchable content can also help to decrease the perceived waiting times people experience in these areas. Engaging content, including
Point of Wait signs are effective for:
- Spotlight stories
- Video and trivia
- News, calendars
3. Point of Sale
Signage in these areas should ideally be used to aid consumer buying decisions. Design is key to this viewing pattern. Colour, graphics and other design features will help to enhance brand awareness and improve the receptiveness of your messaging.
Point of Sale is effective for:
- In-store promotions
- Opening hours
- Discounts and sales
- High margin item promotions
The 60-30-10 Rule
It is important to carefully consider your colour palette because there is often a fine line between a visually engaging design and one that just feels too overwhelming.
Many sign designers will utilise the 60-30-10 rule, which uses a three-colour palette for the whole design. Your chosen dominant colour will be present across 60% of your design. Your secondary colour should be present within 30% of your design and used to ensure your sign is visually engaging and eye-catching. Your third colour will mostly be used as an accent shade and should only account for a maximum of 10% of your design.
Layout Safe Areas
Crafting your ideal layout requires both creative experimentation and a keen consideration of important design guidelines because your content will need to be placed within allocated safe design areas.
Title Safe Area
Taking care to place your content within this area will ensure that it remains fully visible and does not appear distorted on your finished sign.
Action Safe Area
Extending beyond the title safe area, the action safe area can securely house both moving images and motion graphics.
No Content Zone
Every sign design will have a zone that simply should not contain any content at all. It is possible to allow graphics or imagery to bleed into the no content zone, but it’s crucial to avoid placing any important content here because this margin will be cut-off when your content is displayed.
Following best practice and taking the time to properly plan and understand who it is your sign is aimed at will help you to maximise your investment. It is of course also important to experiment and learn from your past efforts to refine your sign design practice and provide increasingly enjoyable and effective viewing experiences for your ideal audience.