Rethinking Signage and Experiences for the Post-Digital Age


Many industries are currently going through rapid change. They are energized by new technologies and the possibilities they bring; the pace of ever faster change; and the disruption that results. We see auto, banking, and television industries caught up in this storm, but digital signage is an area about to be enriched with incredible new opportunities that few seem to have noticed.

When we imagine the future, we always do so as an interpretation of the past. We see how new technologies can embellish and augment the ways that we’ve done things before. The terminology, constraints, principles and assumptions are all simply added on top of the same old mindsets. Horseless carriages were made by the same factories as horse-drawn carriages. There is a “desktop” on our computer screen. Keyboards are not rethought around the needs of a voice and touchscreen world, but are merely replications of a layout based on mechanical arms not clashing on typewriters.

There is no industry that can gain more from rethinking and not repurposing. Signage design is about to undergo a massive shift, and it’s a fascinating and exciting time for those fastest to embrace what’s possible. We can’t keep taking print material and just making it shimmer to get attention, or cut TV ads down to a few seconds. There now exists a fascinating array of dimensions of change that are almost overwhelming in their potential.  Here are just some of the assumptions that we all need to smash:

Firstly, we have assumed that flat screens are expensive because they historically were. Today, I can order a high resolution, framed 40 x 22.5 color acrylic print, and it will cost me around double the cost of the same sized Samsung 4K LED TV. It is now cheaper to have a backlit display complete with images that can both move and can be changed by the user at any time, than one that simply doesn’t have these attributes. Screens of this nature are not merely better than printed material, they are an entirely new concept to ideate for.

TV screens and monitors have always had boundaries and frames. The ratios, the shapes and the sizes were all predetermined by vast factories and what sizes were deemed economical to produce. You could have any shape or size, so long as it was 4:3 or 16:9 and likely in 5 inches. New manufacturing processes allow screens to be cut like paper to any shape, area and ratio. They can be flexible too. Short-throw laser projectors, projection mapping techniques, and electronic ink  simply make  us realize the limitations we’ve always had the world framed by. We can see any surface around us and wonder what would happen if we put a screen on it. What does this mean for shelf edges, car dealerships or transportation hubs? The potential is almost overwhelming.

What’s more, they’re interactive – able to respond not just to us, but to other screens around them. We can use voice, gestures, facial expressions; in return, we can get tactile, haptic feedback. Narrative can work across multiple screens in any given sequence. Broadcast and personalization can work hand-in-hand.

We’ve never known screens like this but, we’ve also never seen the data that supports such real-time creativity. Creative can now be placed in real time, supplied immediately and even be created dynamically based on received, live data. Conditions like weather, stock performance, traffic delays and key news stories can all be combined to choose a message to say and to create it automatically.

One of the strongest forces in technology is the power of the leapfrog. This array of connectivity, new surfaces and more data affords us a plethora of possibilities. And yet, at a time when boundaries across media are blurring, such creativity needs constraining. Energy needs channeling with assumptions and limitations; we need focus but also to embrace the future by the simple human action of trying.

But, for signage, it’s a warm welcome to a new era. It gives us an opportunity to innovate with data, but to remain focused on creativity. Let’s rethink what’s possible, but do it for real results. Now is the time to exploit the opportunities of digital media technology without forgetting, of course, the most important beneficiary of all: the customer.

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About Author

Tom Goodwin is the Executive Vice President, Head of Innovation for Zenith Media and the author of Digital Darwinism. His role is to understand new technology, behaviors and platforms, and implement solutions for clients that take advantage of these new opportunities. Goodwin has twice been voted the #1 Voice in Marketing on LinkedIn and is a regular contributor to leading publications.

1 Comment

  1. One of the strongest benefits that digital signage provides is flexibility in size, able to work on almost all platforms, can be integrated with any technology, & the possibility to use it with any environmental condition. Within its competitors, it is the best which is available today.

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