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12 Tips for Digital Signage Content Design


The purpose of digital signage screens is to draw people's attention. So naturally, we want (and need) the content to look incredible.


Creating or designing content for digital signage screens is fun. It allows you to experiment with colour, contrast, text and arrangement. But, don’t get too carried away with the design. The most important part is still the end goal of imparting information.


So, what is the best practical advice for creating digital signage screen content? Here are some basic design tips so that you can create the best layouts, dimensions and font sizes for your digital signage content.

12 Tips for designing awesome digital signage content


  1. Contrast and message legibility


The message on your digital signage display must be easily seen and separated from other elements in your design. For legibility, contrast is the primary factor to consider. A poor contrast reduces readability, whilst a good contrast improves it.


The biggest takeaway is to make sure that there is plenty of contrast between the background and foreground colours, especially for text.


Contrasting colour palette


Another design consideration is selecting a contrasting colour palette. For example, light text on a dark background or the reverse. The contrast is particularly important when the audience is at some distance from the display screen.


Contrasting colour palettes are also the most effective way of getting your message across and remembered. If the text on your design stands out against the background then naturally, it’s going to read better.


In the digital world, it is also important to understand what the viewer’s eye is drawn to as well as control the impact of the information. 


Eyeline movements


When it comes to designing digital signage content, always remember to place elements where the eyeline moves. In a large majority of the world, this typically follows an “F pattern”; so lay the content from left to right following the eyeline progression. 

This method assumes that you are in a country where the majority of individuals read from left to right. If not, then this method can be flipped to accommodate readers that read from right to left.


Another visual element you can use is the ‘rule of thirds’. This encompasses the placement of key components on the intersections of your content. This is supposedly more pleasing to the eye.


  1. The 3 x 5 text rule


Wording is crucial. It really can make or break in this scenario. If you’re worried about creating a design with too much wording, then stick to this rule. 


What is the 3 x 5 rule?

This is three lines of text made up of a maximum of five words per line OR five lines of text containing a maximum of three words in each.


The words on your digital signage screen need to be concise as their main role is to communicate your message in a clear and powerful way. Therefore, this rule ensures that the design is not cluttered by too much text.


  1. Clear text styles, font and sizing


The worst mistake digital signage content designs can make is using text that is too small to read. The text on digital signage is integral to conveying a message to your audience; if they can’t see it properly, your signage loses its impact and power.


It is also important to keep the font style simple and legible too. A hard and fast design rule is to also use no more than two fonts in a single digital signage design, as well as only use italics sparingly - mainly because they are difficult to read from a distance.


On the flip side, large text size and bold lettering improves readability. 


Sans serif fonts vs. serif fonts


A serif font has small strokes on each of the characters (think, Times New Roman). This style of font is typically better used in long text mediums, such as books. It is because the serif font helps the human eye track from one word to the next.


Sans serif fonts tend to be easier to read in shorter messages, making them ideal for digital signage content.


Text sizing and guidelines


  • Can your digital sign be viewed from a distance of 7-10 feet away? Typically, 20-30 point font can be read from 7 feet away, whereas a 100 point font can be seen from 26 feet away

  • Use a sans serif typeface for your font as this is easier to read


  1. Different focus techniques


With digital content, you want to use different focus techniques to help guide the eye to critical information first and create a visual hierarchy in your digital signage content design.


Headlines > Graphics > Bright Colours > High Contrast Items


Size is a great indicator for audiences of the priority of these design elements, alongside the arrangement, angles and open space.


Organising your content in a visual hierarchy


Within your design, there will be pieces of information that you want to emphasise more than others. The most important content should be highlighted as a headline or an image that stands out. This could be a text-based offer e.g. “Members Get 50% Off”, or something more informational, such as “Meeting in Progress”.


  1. Previewing the signage designs


During the preview phase, make sure to consider where the eye is drawn to and adjust your design accordingly. You can also test readability and visibility on your own monitor by stepping back at least 5 feet to simulate how your target audience may view the digital signage screen in real life.


  1. Digital signage screen ratios, resolution & file size


When designing for digital signage screens, it is important to know and design your content in the correct ratio. The ratio for digital signage TV screens is always the same and typically 16:9 (horizontal) or 9:16 (portrait). However, if it is outside of a standard TV screen, make sure to check the ratio.


Display Resolution


One key industry term that you may have already heard of is ‘display resolution’. This encompasses the number of pixels shown on the screen. As a general rule, the more pixels equals the better picture and display resolution.


For the different types of screens, these are the standard pixel dimensions: 


  • 960 pixels x 560 pixels = quarter high definition (HD)

  • 1280 x 720 = standard HD / HD ready

  • 1920 x 1080 = full HD

  • 3840 x 2160 = ultra HD


Wherever possible, images and videos should be 1920 x 1080 pixels (in full HD) for effective and clear digital signage.


Image File Size


Another technical consideration to understand when creating digital signage content is the image size. For digital signage, the ideal image file size is between 2-3MB. This is high quality enough that it will look great, but it is also not too high a file size so that you won’t have issues with displaying it on bad or poor Wifi. 


  1. Digital signage content layouts


Digital signage content must have some thought that goes into it. It’s not all catchy titles and bright colours. The layout and placement of particular items are crucial too. Using your knowledge of eyeline movements, combined with standard design practices, you need to balance the composition of the display. This can help text on the signage be seen or emphasised.


Leaving enough outside space around the edge


This is an important element of digital signage content layout design because the space around the design acts as a buffer. By leaving some space around the edge, it prevents the edges of the content from being cut-off, as well as allowing bleed for printed materials. 


  1. Test your call to actions (CTA)


In advertising, the copy can literally make or break a piece the success of a design. That’s why it’s so important to test out different words, formats, lengths and actions. 


There are numerous examples of changing one word or line in a CTA and it has a significantly higher success rate than previously.


The power of words needs to be harnessed, as well as taking a look at the visual clutter around the headline. Ask yourself: does it take more away from the page? And, is your message more effective with or without it?


  1. Use image overlays


If you’re planning on using text over any background images, use a dark overlay to help with the contrast. In tandem with this, if you have white text on top of a dark image or background, an overlay can help the text be seen more clearly.


  1. Sound checks


If you would like to play digital signage content that requires sound, it is advisable to check that the environment your signage will be displayed in will be able to cater for this. Then, you need to check: is the sound clear enough to hear?


Digital signage screens are great for displaying video, whether this is live-streaming or pre-recorded, or even newsfeeds, YouTube video or content from social media. Sound (or subtitles) are important to enhance the user viewing experience. Make sure your hardware and environment are able to display the audio correctly.


  1. Create zones in your layout display


A great way to maximise your on-screen space is by using a zoned layout on your digital signage display. By zoning out and splitting different areas of the screen into sections, you can create rules for the different zones. This could be simple rules such as not allowing more than one video at a one time. Zoning formats can also be set up to display news feeds or weather information, and social media feeds.


  1. Time design rules


The last element to consider when creating digital signage content and designs is knowing what content to display and when.


There are some loose guidelines to help you determine how long to show your content for:


  • Passerby or shopper - 30 seconds - short-term viewing

  • Reception desk, staff member or in a coffee shop - 30 seconds to 2 minutes - mid-term viewing

  • Office, restaurant or waiting room area - 2 to 30 minutes - long-term viewing


Depending on the placement of your content design, this can help you determine how long to tailor your content based on how long the viewer will be in front of it.


For example, if you’re designing content for a shop window, you will only need around a minute or two of content that is playing on a loop. For a waiting room or office, you might want to play x2 30-minute playlists on rotation as the view time is significantly longer.


We hope you found this comprehensive list of digital signage content design ideas helpful. As with any creative endeavour, rules and guidelines are there to be broken and experimented with. Digital signage is certainly a field in which creatives can test their creativity and content effectiveness and power.


Contact AOPEN

AOPEN supplies and manufactures a wide range of digital signage players and related products. We manufacture an array of industrial-grade and commercial panel PCs and all-in-one PCs, call us today on +31 (0)73 646 6400, or email us at request@aopen.com and we’ll be in touch with you shortly. We also know a lot of digital signage software partners and if you need one, please don't hesitate to contact us!