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Embracing Electronic Signage

The New Look of Digital Signs

By Gretchen A. Peck

The demand for digital signage appears to be on the rise, and innovative sign shops are seeing it as a way to grow sales and respond to customers’ evolving marketing needs.

Digital signage has been around for years, but recently, advances in viewing systems have made it a practical, sharp, and effective media alternative for sign shop customers who, not long ago, only budgeted for print.

Digital signage can be based on any number of viewing technologies—CRT monitors, flat-panel LCDs, plasma screens, or other digital projection technology. And they can be controlled remotely—across a customer’s internal network or remotely via a secure Web connection. There are also standalone solutions that have built-in video controllers.

Take notice of your surroundings in an average day, and you’ll be amazed at how popular digital video signage has become. Take a stroll through the mall, and you’ll spot them—front and center in store window displays and nestled among the rows of kiosks.

Dynamic signs are also sprouting up alongside the nation’s highways, beckoning commuters to stop and visit nearby retail, amusement, or historic attractions. They can be found lining the halls of airport terminals, in hotel lobbies, and at your local supermarket check-out. Go to any sporting event, and you’ll see digital signs all around you, jockeying for your attention. Even fast food restaurants have digital signage these days—showcasing menus, special offers, and promotions.

While print won’t likely lose out to its digital counterpart in the immediate future, many sign shops are finding that their clientele is intrigued by dynamic signage. Some like the idea of being able to include video clips in their campaigns. Others appreciate the ability to rotate between multiple campaigns at a single high-profile installation. Others have found that digital signage gives them the opportunity to complement their own messages with non-competitive advertising.

Generally speaking, marketing professionals see digital signage as an opportunity to get more bang for the buck.

And digital signage isn’t just for Madison Avenue and Times Square anymore. It’s already part of mainstream American culture. And innovative sign suppliers are attacking the learning curve and expanding their offerings to include digital displays as a complementary service to print.

Cashing in on Video
DSG Signs of Tualatin, OR has a mantra, "We take no work for granted." That attitude is, no doubt, appreciated by DSG’s loyal clientele, which turns to the sign specialist for everything from banners to backlits, from posters to point-of-sale-and most recently, digital video displays.

"The casino industry has been our primary focus, but we continue to service clients in a broad range of industries—from retail stores to sporting events, including golf," explains Adam Wiesberg, president & CEO, DSG Signs.

Back when the company was still a new kid on the sign block, it catered to a relatively niche market—producing signage for golf courses and golfing events. Since those early years, its market reach has grown substantially into the gaming arena, and the company is now one of the world’s leading casino signage suppliers.

DSG Signs’ clients are geographically dispersed across the U.S., though Wiesberg says that they also serve a few international customers, as well. The company’s roots are planted in print; from the start, this was a shop that adopted large format digital inkjet technologies. Today, it relies on 60-inch HP 5000s to produce as many as 2,000 jobs each year.

But three years ago, DSG Signs experienced a new phenomenon. Its clients began to inquire about digital signage—video displays that would allow them to showcase dynamic, rather than static, messaging. It was a natural progression for clients who wanted to complement print with something exciting, new, and attention-grabbing.

Wiesberg had already been watching as the technologies for video displays matured. After several years of research, he decided to custom design two types of video displays for his core casino clientele—the DSG Digital Slottopper and DSG Digital Endbank.

The DSG Digital Slottopper is a double-sided display that can be connected to a client’s network or equipped with a media player for a standalone solution. The DSG Digital Endbank comprises network-ready LCD screens and a DSG-designed endbank bracket that facilitates portability.

"The video signage displays took years to develop using brackets and hardware from our other illuminated displays," Wiesberg explains, and notes that there is a patent pending on the mounting system.

"We have always investigated and utilized new technologies to keep our existing clients happy," Wiesberg affirms.

Selling a digital video display to a client is not all that different than the process of selling a print job, according to Wiesberg. The goal is the same—to provide customers with a top-quality product that will generate top-notch results. Wiesberg says that most customers naturally understand the value of video—being able to communicate with dynamic messaging. But there are also some inherent maintenance issues with video, so customers have to be educated about what’s required to own a digital video display.

"When we send prints or lighted displays, there are no moving parts to malfunction. So, once the product is delivered, we may have a ballast or piece of plex to replace, but it is not common. With video, the demand for tech support and customer service is greatly increased," Wiesberg explains.

Well Worth the Gamble
Print and custom backlit displays continue to be DSG Signs’ bread and butter. And Wiesberg expects that’s not likely to change in the near future. He considers video displays an exciting and valuable tool for print customers looking for a new way—a new medium—by which to communicate.

"As competitive as the video market is today, innovation and a trusted client base is imperative to success," he adds.

Like with their print counterparts, digital signs can be either well or poorly executed. Print suppliers hoping to capture a piece of the digital signage market must develop a fundamental understanding of the types of graphics, layouts, and messaging that work best for a digital installation.

A digital sign’s success or failure is dependent upon the sum of all its parts—its construction, the display technology, overall aesthetics, and the campaign message itself. No matter the output format—electronic or print—creating compelling signs is still very much a reflection of the collaboration between supplier and customer.

While DSG Signs may be ahead of the pack due to its early venture into the digital realm, Wiesberg is modest about his expectations. Client interest seems to be on the rise, but so far, DSG has installed fewer than a dozen digital video displays. He does, however, expect demand to pick up, and quickly.

"While we have had a very positive response, [digital signage will] still represent only a small percentage of our business," Wiesberg confides, estimating that between 10 and 25 percent of 2007 revenues may be derived from video display installations.

Mar2007, Digital Output

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