Digital signage isn't just for signage anymore (not, of course, that it ever really was just for signage).
It's being used to create experiences; it's being used to facilitate or create actual engagement with consumers; and it's being used to create ambiance and atmosphere as a kind of interior design component in corporate lobbies, hospital hallways and waiting rooms and in restaurant dining rooms.
Back in 2008, LG Electronics coined the term "techorating" for that latter one, a fusion of technology and decorating, using tech to create or be an element of interior design and decor.
At the time, LG was focused more on the consumer- or residential-grade market, even enlisting the help of celebrity interior designer Doug Wilson of TLC's "Trading Spaces" as the first official "Techorator" to develop consumer tips and tricks to guide consumers through the techorating process.
Since then, LG and all the digital signage display manufacturers from Christie to NEC to Samsung have explored ways their professional- or commercial-grade displays or projectors could be used in a kind of digital signage techorating for professional spaces and businesses, whether it's in a corporate or hotel lobby, restaurant dining room or even a museum.
Display provider Planar Systems Inc. helped lead the charge in the commercial space, with its Mosaic system that allowed its displays to be hung in artistic or unusual configurations for video walls that broke out of the square or rectangular box on the wall. But the trend has moved beyond any one company or even any one industry, as the Society for Experiential Graphic Designers and other professional groups representing architects, interior architects, interior designers and interior decorators have started to take a longer look at including display technology in their plans, sometimes even before a single brick is laid.
According to Jennifer Davis, vice president of marketing and product strategy for Planar Systems, the trend is still developing.
"There is growing use of video walls, large format displays and creative collage video displays in corporate lobbies, retail, hotels and other public spaces," she said in a recent email. "Touch interactivity is also a growing trend. Not just for information sharing or advertising, but for inspiration and engagement. Customers are using display BIM and SketchUp models in their design and utilizing visual tools like the Mosaic Project Designer and Matrix or DirectLight calculators to think about how displays can be used as a material or finish in their interior designs."
Recently, digital art platform provider Blackdove announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics America Inc.,to develop the Blackdove Digital Canvas to "bring dynamic motion art to life on the walls of private homes and commercial properties." The company has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign launched online, so consumers and businesses can pre-order the Blackdove Digital Canvas and begin building their own personalized galleries of digital artwork on extended-use digital signage display screens, according to the announcement.
The basic idea is that a buyer could use the Blackdove mobile app to build and control a digital art collection that is then streamed on digital signage displays. That's taking the idea of techorating to a new place, but it's hardly the first time digital art has been streamed to a digital signage display: Lady Gaga herself has infiltrated the echelons of high art at the Louvre in Paris on digital signage screens.
Still, it's a sign the concept is continuing to evolve.
"Techorating has evolved as the marketplace has continued to mature," said Michael O'Halloran, product marketing manager, SMART Signage Displays, for Samsung, in a recent email. "We have seen display technologies continue to come down in cost, making them more available as an option for art and aesthetics initiatives — aside from the critical uses of communications and information sharing. This is coupled with developments from innovators like Blackdove, who are optimizing the tools that exist in the hardware space, and enabling techorating to be more available and easier than ever to deploy."
In terms of novel or innovative uses of digital signage as a design element, say in hotels or corporate lobbies, O'Halloran said he was seeing companies looking to differentiate themselves and provide their customers with unique and engaging experiences. "It is the desire to differentiate themselves from the status quo, which is why we have seen so many innovative projects taking flight, and it goes beyond digital displays and interactive displays to outdoor LED message boards and all the way down to your mobile phone," he said. "The end goal is to create engaging experiences for customers — this is what everyone is after." Blackdove CEO Marc Billings said interior designers and architects are taking displays into account in new ways now during the design process.
"Display screens are becoming a standard design element for public spaces of hospitality and commercial interiors," he said. "At first these units were information based; however, now designers are expanding the use of screens into decorative layers. Dynamic visuals provide a designer the ability to shift the entire aesthetic of a room instantly keeping the decor fresh and customers engaged."
Techorating is fast becoming a "go-to feature of public spaces for commercial interiors," Billings said. "Faced with increasingly competitive options for customer attention, creative designers are leveraging digital displays to create dynamic, compelling art experiences integral to their interior designs," he said. "Las Vegas continues to set the tone for the medium, with hoteliers following the lead globally. The cost effectiveness of digital elements capable of changing a design aesthetic in an interior is impossible to ignore. With commercial interiors facing five-year-plus renovation cycles, digital art installations allow for interiors to stay fresher longer with relatively low cost content updates."
(Cover image courtesy of Samsung Business USA/YouTube. Interior image courtesy of Planar Systems Inc.)
/ Christopher is the managing director of the Interactive Customer Experience Association and former editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.