Classy design versus the same old thing in digital signage

© Netvico Sportcheck Berlin

Brushed steel, display column slightly curved, touchscreen or color screen – done. Many kiosk terminals look the same.
Does retail want the uniform look when it comes to digital signage? Which alternative solutions are there in digital signage? And can you really score with customers with these? We have taken a look and asked around.

The market for digital signage is slowly getting in motion in Germany. Little by little retailers install kiosk information terminals and advertising screens for their customers. Critics already complain about sensory overload and potential manipulation during shopping trips. Retail needs to balance investments and gain. “Content is King“ says one important rule for electronic media information in stores. It is not enough to just install these devices. It depends on the contents that are meant to be presented on there. Pictures, graphics, texts, videos – everything needs to be obtained and played back at the right time. The so-called playlist, the program, can be centrally controlled by chain stores or grant merchants on-site influence.

Digital signage for many functions

Whether it’s a video wall, large-format screen or kiosk information terminal – the functions of digital signage are clearly defined. The new media is meant to inform customers, entertain them and woo them. The equipment serves as a directory; it can showcase special offers or evoke emotions via video. Contents are emphasized in all of this, since the enclosure only forms the framework. This is exactly what Bernhard Goßen, Managing Director at MultiComSystems, criticizes.

The company from Hilden, Germany, offers kiosk information terminals, but at first glance they look like many others. “The design should not be an end in itself,“ Goßen reasons. “I want to build terminals that provide an additional value.“ He is wondering why retail is not purchasing terminals that connect passers-by by phone with an emergency hotline by pressing a S.O.S button. The associates there could alert emergency physicians, the fire department or the police and release life saving appliances that are built-in in the base of the terminal. Goßen is thinking about first-aid kits or defibrillators here. “Most people are afraid to make mistakes when they try to help. In case of an emergency they want clear instructions. “

This is a niche, Goßen knows. But sophisticated design also does not appear to be mass market. For example, Polygon from Obertshausen, Germany, offers individual design. Although retail has a large interest in this in their search for unique selling features, the associated costs and time expenditure hold many investors back, as Polygon Managing Director Michael Reuter tells us in our focal point interview on this topic. People rather use options to modify existing standard terminals.


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Digital information column presented with design award

There are definitely examples of sophisticated design in the digital signage area. The international iF Design Award has an excellent reputation. Several hundred distinctions in many different categories are awarded each year. The categories range from basic commodities to capital goods. In 2011 the digital column ”Confire A46“ by Stüber Systems (Berlin) won the coveted title. According to Stüber, the digital column is especially beneficial where sophisticated communication, interaction and representation are in demand: In companies, foyers, exhibition spaces, museums and galleries, shopping centers, at trade fairs and events or in public facilities. The digital column has a flush front made of safety glass and a full HD touchscreen with a 46 to 82 inch diagonal screen size. “The single piece molded rear panel also looks great in the center of the room. The slender display side is defined by the dynamically shaped side panels. The overall construction floats on a minimalist base,“ according to the product brochure.

Wood, glass, granite – a lot is possible

“There is a growing market for novel solutions, but it is still very small, “ says Manfred Gerling, sales representative for Wrocklage Intermedia, a company that started out as an advertising agency and due to customer requests has grown into digital signage. They buy ready-made terminals and digital columns, but they have a lot of things made in their own design by specialist companies in their home region around Ibbenbüren.

Their range of products includes digital columns and terminals in wood, glass or stone. “Multi:stone“ is the name of a wall display that weighs 140 kilograms (ca. 300 lbs) and is enclosed in a frame of premium granite. Other types of sandstone or marble are also available. It is intended for instance for foyers where visitors can call up information on room occupancy on the built-in 42'' touch display. Wrocklage programs the inserted visitor information system as database-supported flash animation on its own. Optionally available are webcams, active loudspeakers and proximity sensors. In addition, a stainless steel digital information column with a keyboard is possible. Wrocklage believes that maple is visually as well as tangibly a real alternative to materials such as sheet steel or plastic and offers a terminal body made of wood. Inside there is room for a book size PC and additional small components. The display has the option of being either equipped with a touchscreen or safety glass.

Large screens become a design object

By now, monitors are getting larger and larger. 120-inch screens have been available for quite some time. Manufacturers outbid each other with ever better color rendering and ever smaller frames, to where entire video walls are possible with several screens. These can be used for aggressive advertising or very subtly to create a special atmosphere. What used to be a fringe phenomenon as video art in the art sector, could thus find an entry into a larger marketplace: Creating dream worlds on the computer is possible.

How you can deliberately integrate the technical looking screens into store construction, is something showcased in the ”travel agency of the future“. The flagship store of FTI Frosch Touristik in Munich, Germany, was just distinguished by the Global Association for Marketing at Retail POPAI with the award for digital signage. More on this in our second interview on this focal topic.

The Otto-Group has a pioneer in digital signage for retail with its SportScheck. Sports virtually lend themselves to digital advertising; after all action, excitement and nature experience can be well illustrated in moving images. But SportScheck uses DS also as signs and as a directory to commodity groups on the individual floors. And there are touch sensitive screens where customers can call up product information. SportScheck also in part incorporates screens very specifically into the shop design. Four monitors, framed by wooden window shutters create a virtual lattice window that provides a view of Alpine sceneries.

Digital signage is a growing market. The design already plays a certain role today, even though the monitors still are the primary purpose. Special terminals themselves are eye catchers. The unusual has its price of course – and it must pay off in the long term. The unusual however can also be an image gain that can not be measured in Euros and cents.

René Schellbach,


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