Rich Archer's blog

Typography Matters - Tips for Type in Digital SIgnage

Digital signage is a key to unlocking many doors. Better engagement, quick and simple information sharing, powerful wayfinding, and more are all at your fingertips - but only if you make the most of your innovative digital signage solutions with fonts that make best use of them. WHAT’S YOUR TYPE? SERIF & SANS-SERIF FONTS - it’s all in the name. Serif fonts have small projections (called ““serifs””) that finish a stroke of a letter. Popular in print, and generally considered easy to read, as the serifs guide your eye to the next letter. Sans-serif fonts do not have serifs at the end of a stroke. Popular in digital, as the clean lines of the letters are clear on a screen. Sans-serif fonts have become the go-to for digital communications, as it’s thought sans-serif fonts display better in pixels with their cleaner edges, making them easier to read on screen. Serifs typically didn’t render well in the early days of computing, but new technologies have changed that, and serif fonts are starting to be utilized more on screen. Still, sans-serif seems to be the more preferred font type for digital communications, and ADA guidelines do require all important text on signage to be in a sans-serif font, and readability most likely is the reason. FONT SIZE MATTERS - SCREENS & RESOLUTION & AUDIENCE - oh my! There’s a few things to think about when trying to determine a good font size to use for your digital signage. Unfortunately, there’s no magic font size that works best for every layout, as digital screens vary in size and resolution. So how do you decide what font size to set? Generally, it’s a safe bet that small text will most likely not be readable, as the audience for digital signs is usually a good distance away from the screen. Larger text is usually better and ensures your message gets out there. Most applications use points as the unit of measure for text. When designing for print, designers know that 72 points is equal to one inch on paper - which means a font set to 72 points will be one inch in height when printed. But digital layouts don’t use inches as a unit of measure, they use pixels. So how do you determine the size of the text in pixels? POINTS TO PIXELS - a simple calculation. If you want to figure out how high your text will be in pixels, there’s a simple formula you can use - multiply your font size by 0.722. This formula gives you the height of your chosen font size in pixels in a standard one-to-one pixel ratio. If you’re designing for a final resolution of 1920 by 1080, a one-to-one ratio means your layout is also 1920 by 1080. But knowing how many pixels high your font will be can help you with your layout. RESOLUTION - how many pixels are you dealing with? Resolution is the number of pixels in an image. Standard HD screens have a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, and this is a common layout size for digital signs. Set your font size relative to your overall layout size, and remember -- larger text is more readable. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE - make sure your message is seen. Knowing your audience is important to ensuring your sign is readable and your message is heard. How far away are they? How big is the screen they are looking at? All are important factors to consider when trying to determine an appropriate font size. TO CAPITALIZE OR NOT TO CAPITALIZE - USING CASING EFFECTIVELY - does it make a difference? Studies have shown that all uppercase lettering reduced reading times by as much as 20%. Other studies have shown all uppercase lettering is easier to read. So what do you do? If you want to use all uppercase text, go for it! Just be conservative, and use it for text shorter than one line, such as headlines or labels and dates. It will stand out and provide the impact you’re looking for. FONTS, FONTS EVERYWHERE - BUT NOT IN YOUR LAYOUTS - keep the number of fonts to 2, 3 max. Try to limit the number of fonts you use to two, three max. Using more will result in unnecessary visual clutter and a less readable sign. Try using a sans-serif for headings and a serif for body, or use different weights of the same typeface. LESS IS MORE - KEEP IT SIMPLE - reduce clutter in your copy. It doesn’t take a paragraph to say what you could communicate in one sentence.   View infographic as PDF.

Digital Signage 101: Learning to Think Like a Designer

It wasn’t in the job description when you accepted your position, nor did you study the topic in college. But suddenly you find yourself in charge of your business’s digital signage. Are you prepared? You associate digital signage with graphic design. You associate graphic design with art. But is that right? And if it is, oh man, you’re in trouble—because an artist is the last thing you’d call yourself, at least in public or on your LinkedIn page. But hold on. You’ll be all right. With a slight shift in your thinking, you can likely handle many of your digital signage needs on your own. Crystal Clear Messaging The first thing to keep in mind is that while art is subjective, design is definitely objective. A painting can mean different things to different people and still be considered a great painting. In fact, the possibility for multiple, even contradictory interpretations may be one of the painting’s charms! In digital design, by contrast, such ambiguity only leads to confusion. Your message should be clear and easy to understand and crafted for a specific audience. Cool, vivid, stylish, or even flashy—these characteristics aren’t good enough by themselves. Their only worth is in their ability to clearly convey your message to the people who need it. So, before starting your next digital signage project, clearly identify who it is you’re trying to communicate with and what it is you want that person (or people) to do. Let the answers to these questions guide you in all of your design decisions.   Easier said than done, of course. The designers who succeed create good memories and strong attention spans. It’s those moments when designers forget or lose track of either purpose or audience that things go off-topic. So tape it to the bathroom mirror: everything you do in design should be to accommodate the goal you are trying to achieve. That isn’t to say that those in digital communications can’t be creative. Designers are problem-solvers—the most creative of the creative-types out there. They’re also extremely versatile, able to quickly transfer their skills to a variety of mediums: digital, print, UI/UX, Motion Graphics. As the famous designer Massimo Vignelli once said: “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” Omnivex Can Help Omnivex offers complete digital communications solutions that not only meet but exceed our customers’ expectations. Services include consulting, project management, creative design, technical design, hardware selection, installation, training, and technical account management. Our unparalleled product expertise and experience ensure our customers receive the best solution for the best possible outcome.

Digital Storytelling with Data

In September 2020 Omnivex hosted a webinar entitled "Digital Storytelling with Data" featuring Giorgia Lupi of Pentagram. She is an information designer whose work takes a humanistic approach to data. In her practice, Giorgia challenges the impersonality of data, designing engaging visual narratives that reconnect numbers to what they stand for: stories, people, ideas. Lupi was born in Italy and received her Master’s Degree in architecture at Facoltà di Architettura at Università di Ferrara and her Doctorate in Design at Politecnico di Milano, where she focused on information mapping. In 2011, she co-founded Accurat, an acclaimed data-driven research, design and innovation firm with offices in Milan and New York. She joined Pentagram as a partner in 2019. Every day Giorgia and her team, shape and design the different ways that clients access different types of information. They translate numbers into images, through data visualizations and through building interactive and digital experiences with this visualization. Watch the webinar below to learn more about Giorgia and how she approaches “Digital Storytelling with Data.”     Digital Storytelling with Data from Omnivex on Vimeo.  

Ultimate Guide to Designing Awesome Digital Signage

The medium changes, art remains. The digital age has brought an untold number of new opportunities to artists. In the 1600’s an artist might sculpt clay or paint on large canvas. Today, some of the best artists are creating digital animations or designing apps.   Digital signage is one of those evolving mediums. It is an interesting mix of the traditional and the new age. While the concept of a sign is as old as civilization itself, a linked digital communications platform is something entirely new. Which means that if you’re reading this, you are working in somewhat uncharted territory. Never fear! The right designs are as aesthetically oriented as they are utilitarian. This necessity for form and function means that experienced professionals rely on a tightly knit group of core concepts to create masterpieces that pass internal review and look amazing in the field. Wait, what if you aren’t a digital design expert but have a network of digital signs you are tasked with creating content for – where do you start? Here’s The Ultimate Guide to Designing Awesome Digital Signage. Do Your Research The first facet of creating the perfect digital communication design is research! Start with a brand style guide and required content. Most organizations have brand guidelines and these are important for gaining insight into the colors and visual style considered acceptable by your company. If a brand guide is unavailable, it’s a good idea to create one. Use the guide to define color schemes, fonts, and rules around logo usage for your digital signage. Next, think about what you are trying to communicate and consider how that information is currently shared. Who is the audience? What are the important messages and content? What systems/feeds will the data and information on the digital signs come from? Create a Realistic Outline Outline exactly what kind of content is going to be included in the digital content solution. This provides insight into the scope of the project and how the material will be seen. One approach is to use a Content Matrix that you fill out with a comprehensive list of the different type of content each screen will display. This is important for designing the layouts for different screen sizes. Play Around Sketch Some Stuff Now comes the fun part! Start brainstorming potential ideas and putting pen to paper. It is a good idea to come up with several alternative designs and get input early in the process. Once the general details are mapped out it is important to set a timeline to keep the project on track. Think About Lorem Ipsum, I Mean Fonts Once you have agreed on the deliverables and rough outlines, start to research fonts. It is common to use San Serif fonts for headings and pair them with Serif fonts for body copy. Also, be sure to consider casing. When our eyes see all upper-case letters, it can be harder for them to make out the shape of the word because the texts become all blocks. Put Yourself in the Shoes Of An Observer Keep viewing distance in mind when creating your final design. A one-inch high font size is visible from around 20-25 feet. Think about where your audience will be standing and how they will be interacting with the message. Pixel density and monitor size also play crucial roles in the final visibility of the design. Use simple color contrasts and avoid overwhelming your audience. There is a fine line between a design that “pops” and one that is an eyesore. Put Everything Together and Present Gather all of your mockups get feedback. Ask yourself: Have I explored ideas fully? Have I given every idea I had a chance? Get some feedback. What do people like? What do people not like. Don’t take the feedback personal. Think of it as all objective. Afterwards, finalize the mockups for every single screen size. I do these in Photoshop at 72 dpi, 1920 by 1080 aspect ratio. Then it is time to start building. Think about how much of this can you can do in your Omnivex Moxie software. This make the design a little more flexible and a little easier to use. Now you should be ready to publish some killer designs! Omnivex is Here to Help Get an Omnivex digital design expert to help, visit today!

Why Typography Matters in Design

You’ve worked hard to get to where you are with your signage project. With your team, you have decided on just the right copy. Perhaps you’ve gone through several color choices to land on just the right hue. No doubt it has been a big project. Unfortunately, all of this work you put into relaying your message can be in vain if your audience never gets it. I recently gave a presentation on the how typography helps achieve essential design goals. Let's dive into some of the insights and tips we discussed in that lesson to get a fuller understanding of the importance of typography. Cut the Extraneous Input In my webinar on this topic, I showed a digital sign filled with all kinds of problems. If I hadn’t been presenting on it, I would have wanted to avoid it altogether. The sign wasn’t the problem, of course, the typography was. As a reader, it was nearly impossible to tell what the designers wanted me to get from the piece. There was no immediately apparent hierarchy that could have signaled to my brain what information was necessary and what was less so. The core of the problem was that there was too much on it. To better serve the audience, I would recommend cutting everything that does not communicate information. If it doesn’t get us to the preferred condition, let go of it. Typography Tips Effective typography tells the audience what's the most essential information on the screen before they even realize it. In fact, the best typography should go unnoticed by those who don’t love design. It should work seamlessly. Here are a few ways to make that happen: Check Your Brand Guide Does your digital signage match the rest of your brand, or does it seem out of place? An excellent brand guide tells you what fonts, colors, size, and spacing to use. If you do not have a brand guide yet, take this opportunity to build one. Stick to Sans Serif In your brand guide, you may have both serif and sans serif fonts. Serifs are the little marks at the ends of letters. Sans serif fonts, like Arial, do not have these marks. For digital signage, it’s typically best to stick to sans serif fonts, as they tend to be more readable. Pair Fonts If your sign needs to convey a lot of information, you need to make a hierarchy that’s easy for readers to identify. Consider using your sans serif fonts as headers and serif fonts as body text. When in doubt, use Arial. Establish a set of rules about this hierarchy or consult your brand guide. Remember that you can also use different weights, like bold, to communicate the visual authority. Three-Font Max It’s great to pair fonts, but don’t overdo it. Try to stick to just two or three fonts per project. Too many can make the screen chaotic, like in the example above. Font Size Matters In the digital signage world, the size of the typography is key to readability. If you're not sure, go bigger. Think about the distance the sign will be from your audience. If they are about 20 to 25 feet away, consider a one-inch height. The further away you need your audience to be, the bigger the font needs to be. Consider Casing At first thought, it may seem like a great idea to use all-caps on your sign. However, that can make it difficult for people to see the full shape of the word. When possible, avoid typing whole words in upper-case. If you need to communicate that a particular piece of information is vital, try a different weight instead. Thoughts on Spacing Spacing is perhaps the most crucial part of making your typography useful. In my work, I use line heights to guide my spacing choices. For example, if you have big chunks of text, you may want to put two line heights in between each. Furthermore, you can use a grid to ensure that your spacing is even. If spacing is even slightly uneven, it can be a significant distraction. Play with your alignment a little, but know when to stop fiddling with it. Less is More Don’t take a paragraph to say what you could communicate with one sentence.   Read our PDF on Fonts, Colors and Contrast!

Podcast - Create Better Digital Signage By Blending Data with Design

Designing today’s digital signage is more than thinking about filling the screen. It’s about the how and why of the information and data being presented. (And actually, don’t fill the screen. White space is your friend.) Pro AV Podcast host Shelby Skrhak sat down with Rich Archer, Creative Lead at Omnivex, for a nuts and bolts discussion about the philosophy of design and how data makes the difference in effective and good-looking digital signage. Archer joined the design team at Omnivex three years ago, after spending two decades in design, marketing, and communications. With an educational background in architecture and experience in graphic design, Archer saw an interesting intersection of two schools of design thought coming together in digital signage. “I don’t think I could find a better merge of data and design than digital signage with the applications of it we build here at Omnivex,” Archer said. Archer uses this blend to influence his design approach and offers tips for doing the same. “Thinking of the how and why of graphic design was just like thinking of the how and why of architecture for me,” Archer said. “Thinking about the how and why we build houses for certain scenarios, clients, climates… that applies here.”    

Understanding the Basics of Digital Design

You’ve got the equipment. You’ve invested in the technology. Your digital signage display is ready to go. So what’s next? Obviously, there’s more to it than simply inputting the desired text and uploading an image or two. You need a bit of theory—a few sound principles to guide you in your design choices. You want your signage to be remembered, and for the right reasons. So what are your materials, your clay, so to speak, as you craft your display? You’re working with original text, of course, and images. How about newsfeeds, social media posts, and sports scores? The possibilities are endless, but how should you put them all together? That is the question! First Principles of Digital Composition Consider for a moment a few basic principles of composition as you create, manage, and update your digital signage displays: Visual Contrast Visual contrast is important. Contrast is using color and brightness and other distinguishing elements to make certain aspects of your presentation stand out. You should use contrast to create a visual hierarchy that shows viewers where to focus their attention. Keep it simple and never lose sight of your objective. White Space Elements on your screen are like people—they need a little room to breathe, so don’t be afraid of white space. Overcrowding is as uncomfortable on screen as it is in person. Proper use of white space can help focus attention on your message. Colors Pantone 448 C has recently been named the “world’s ugliest color.” Currently, it’s being used in anti-smoking campaigns, which shows, ugly as it is, that color can have a powerful, motivating influence on all of us. A splash of color adds instant intrigue to your display, likewise energy and excitement. Simply put, bright and vibrant colors are just plain fun to look at. However, as with any design tool, moderation is key. Too many colors can be distracting or even off-putting. In most cases, you’ll want to limit your color palette to a maximum of three colors. Check out our info sheet on color for more info! Rule of Thirds The rule of thirds isn’t actually a rule, but rather a simple, easy-to-follow guideline that can help you create more interesting compositions. See the digital canvas in thirds—horizontally as well as vertically­­, like a tic-tac-toe board. Where the lines intersect are good places to position your most important visual elements. Understanding these basic principles of composition will enhance your ability to engage and communicate with your target audience. They aren’t hard, and you can begin applying them today. Take It to the Next Level with Omnivex Okay, so that’s Level 1. What about Level 2, Level 3, and beyond? Omnivex can help you get there. Learn more at  
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