Choosing the Right Images for Digital Signage is part of our How to Design for Digital Signage series that provides tips and ideas on how you can design better, more effective and beautiful screens.
#4: Choosing the Right Images
Studies show that on-premise digital signage leaves a positive, lasting impression on visitors. Whether it’s used for wayfinding, customer service messaging, or simply entertainment, dynamic digital signage is becoming a hallmark of progressive businesses. Not only can digital signage replace those messy stacks of brochures on your sales counter and fluttering slips of paper on your bulletin boards, but it can also help you keep important information for your staff and customers up to date.
Whatever you’re using it for, your digital sign is going to be more effective if it uses top quality images. This post offers you some basic tips for creating graphics with a professional touch.
Poor quality, low resolution image
Good quality, high resolution image
Image Quality You wouldn’t bother watching a television show if it was full of static or snow, would you? The same goes for images used in digital signage. Low quality, pixelated, or grainy images undermine your brand and may leave your audience with the wrong impression.
To avoid poor image quality issues, always ensure the image you are using is at least 72 dpi at full size. For ScreenScape templates, a full size image should be 1366 px wide by 768 px tall (a 16:9 ratio) at minimum, and 1920px wide by 1080px tall is recommended. The rule of thumb is this: if you have to resize a 72 dpi image to make it bigger, it will probably pixelate, but resizing to a smaller physical size is okay.
Another common issue is the stretching or squishing of an image. This is caused by improper resizing. The proper way to resize an image is to “scale” it. This will ensure the width and height of the image remain in the same ratio or proportion. In most image editing software, you can scale an image by clicking on a corner anchor point and holding down the shift key while you move the anchor point to resize the image.
Image File Types Images come in a variety of file types, but the most popular are .jpg, .png, and .gif. Here is a breakdown of their differences:
PNG is a non-lossy file type that can handle transparency. Although .png’s are higher quality images, they are larger in file size than .gif’s and .jpg’s.
GIF is a lossy file type that can only handle a limited number of colors. This is why images saved out in .gif format often look like they are made of half-tone dots or pointillism. These days .gif’s are usually used for short animations.
JPG is still by far the most popular image file type on the internet. This file type compresses the image, creating a lossy file format, but the file size is much smaller than the other two options. You cannot have a transparent background with .jpg formatted files.
ScreenScape templates allow the uploading of .jpg’s, .png’s and .gif’s of up to 6MB in size.
Image Colour Over the past couple of hundred years, many studies have been performed on the subject of colour and its emotional and physiological effects. Recent studies have shown that images using an analogous palette consisting of at least five or six colours are the most memorable. Because colour has such a sensory appeal, try to use images that contain bright colours to excite the eye and keep your viewers interested.
The “Rose of Temperaments” designed by Goethe & Schiller in 1798/9 matches twelve colours to human occupations or their character traits.
Image Message A picture is worth a thousand words, but the wrong image can confuse your message or turn off your viewers. Make sure the subject matter of your image aligns well with your intended message and communicates in a tactful way to your chosen audience. Remember to take into account the location or locations where you image might be shown, and try to envision the full context of the situation. If you own an ice cream shop that caters to a younger crowd, don’t use an image that shows a couple of seniors slurping up icy treats in a waffle cone.
This cremation company pulled their ad campaign in 2015 due to public outcry and confusion as to its messaging. Seriously, what??
This ad should have been a no-brainer, but nobody noticed the issue before it went up on the billboard.
We don’t just want people to see our message, we want them to remember it. If you really want to connect with your audience, try to appeal to them on an emotional level. Images containing people, especially people showing emotions, are the most memorable images to use and greatly increase memory retention rates.
Images & Text Another consideration in choosing the right image for your digital sign is how it will work with your text. If you put your text over the image, ensure your text is still readable. Some images are just too “busy” to use as a background image or do not provide enough contrast for readers to make out the text on top. Check out the ScreenScape template you want to use to determine if your text’s location will interfere with the image. If it looks like your text will not work with the image, you may crop the image differently, choose another image to use, or try another template.
Image Copyright & Licensing So you were surfing the web and found the perfect image for your digital sign — or did you? Just because an image is found on the internet, doesn’t mean that it is free to use. Most images are copyrighted and require licensing for commercial use. Using a copyrighted image without procuring licensing can lead to legal disputes, suspension of social media accounts, unexpected financial settlements and other headaches. These days, budget is no longer an excuse for obtaining top quality images — there are many free or reasonably priced stock photography sites to choose from. Here are some links to some great free and paid stock photo sites for you to check out:
Fonts for digital signage is part of our How to Design for Digital Signage series that provides tips and ideas on how you can design better, more effective and beautiful screens.
#3: Fonts For Digital Signage
Some of your digital signage content will most likely contain text. Images might be more engaging, but it’s text that often allows us to understand complex ideas in a more precise manner.
In this post we’re going to focus on three main categories of fonts and how they apply to digital signage.
Serif fonts have small lines (sometimes also called “feet”) at the ends of each letter. They tend to be thought of as more classic, serious or traditional. Some common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Garamond and Baskerville.
Sans-serif fonts are – you guessed it – fonts that don’t have those extra lines at the ends of letters. Because of that, they’re generally thought to look cleaner and more modern. Common sans-serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica and Verdana.
SCRIPT (SOMETIMES ALSO KNOWN AS DECORATIVE)
Scripts are based on the fluid stroke created by handwriting. The cursive fonts you’ve seen before that have connecting letters (written in a flowing style) – those are script fonts! Script fonts carry with them more of a personal touch, but also vary in style; some may look like casual handwriting, while some look more like elegant calligraphy.
SERIF v.s. SANS-SERIF v.s. SCRIPT There’s a reason why a lot of your printed books use serif fonts. Many feel that serif fonts make long paragraphs of running text in print easier to read and navigate.
This changes however when we make the shift to web or pixel based screens. There, sans-serif fonts dominate. The fine, delicate and small details of serifs don’t display as well on big screens (especially those with low resolutions) and can end up looking distorted, so designers tend to favour sans-serif fonts for digital signage and other digital displays. Sans serif fonts are easier to read, especially when you take into account that people may be viewing your screens from a distance.
For similar reasons, script fonts aren’t great for large bodies of text.
Instead, they’re great for headlines, or situations that call for a personal touch. Say, wedding invitations or holiday greetings.
When designing and using fonts for digital signage, you’ll also want to consider hierarchy. It indicates where a user should start reading and how to proceed. By changing up the font and size, you can easily highlight a piece of text as a main headline.
Examples of establishing a hierarchy and playing with different font pairings. Left – large serif font for the headline, small sans-serif font for the body text. Right – Two sans-serif fonts go well together, but the difference in size tells the viewer what to look at first.
Main things to remember when choosing fonts for digital signage
Make it readable. Sans-serif is the safest way to go. Serif is for long paragraphs of text (which you should avoid on your digital signage in the first place!) or for short headlines. Script fonts are also ok if text is minimal.
Use no more than 2 fonts. The more fonts you use, the busier and “noisier” your design can appear. This may affect readability.
Establish a hierarchy. The text with the biggest font size should be the main message you want viewers to notice. This is often the headline. Less important text should be smaller in size. This shows viewers where to look and what’s important.
Struggling to find the perfect font pairing or want some new typefaces in your arsenal?
Think about your brand or the message you want to get across. Is it urgent? Is it meant to be soothing? Color theory teaches us that warm colors like red, orange and yellow are generally energizing and happy, while cooler tones are calming and relaxing. Colors are an excellent way to evoke certain emotions, or express the unique personality of your brand.
The meaning of colors often depend on context as well. Red for example, can be associated with love or hatred, can symbolize danger, boldness, a sense of urgency, and attract a whole lot of attention. It all depends on context, and in today’s world, we trained to understand this meaning almost immediately.
There’s a reason why sales are often written and advertised in big bold red letters!
So how to choose colors for digital signage?
Start with a color palette.
Restricting yourself to select few colors and reducing the overall number of colors you use, helps to create a cohesive look. Color palettes are a fundamental element that can help build brand recognition through visual communication.
An easy way to start is to use color theory. Align your palette with color theory principals to give yourself an idea of what colors you could start with. Is there a specific color that strongly aligns with your brand values?
Another great and easy way to start building a color palette is to reference images you like or images that reflect your brand’s personality.
Keep in mind that you want to have a few good base colors that you can use as backgrounds, and at least one accent color (to help things stand out).
Still need more help? Here’s a color palette generator that might be useful:
When developing a color palette, remember to look out for contrast between your selected colors. Color contrast is used to make the most important element of a page pop. High contrast like dark on light, or light on dark makes things easier to read. Take caution though, if everything on your screen is high contrast, it can get tiring on the eye after a while. Similarly enough, while low contrast colors (i.e. monochromatic colors) can look beautiful paired together, it can often be hard to read, especially when it comes to type (text).
Take a look at your color palette to ensure that you’ve included at least one dark and one light color that contrast each other nicely.
So go get started! With this information, you should now have a good idea on how to choose colors for digital signage!