Interactive Kiosks and Wayfinding

How the Use of Imagery in Digital Signage Improves Identification of Key Information

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Digital signage visualization includes the art and techniques used to create digital signs that attract attention by quickly conveying messages using conceptual images.

Why are images so powerful at conveying a message? Humans more easily remember imagery that represents a concept.

Knowing how these eye-brain connections work helps create more impactful messages when designing digital signage displays of important business information.

The Speed of Human Eye-Brain Recognition

The human brain can process images at amazing speeds. Research at MIT found that people could recognize an image viewed for as little as 13 milliseconds. To put this in perspective, the length of time for an average person to blink is 100 milliseconds (one-tenth of a second).

In the MIT study, researchers asked test subjects to identify an image mixed in a group of six or 12 pictures shown to the test subject, one after another, for 13 to 80 milliseconds per image. The image descriptions used by the researchers for the test subjects to identify included key phrases like “smiling couple” or “picnic.”

After test subjects practiced, they could see images in as little as 13 milliseconds. This speed is equivalent to about 75 frames per second. A movie or video typically plays back at 30 frames per second, so this frame rate is like running a film at more than double speed.

Brain Power

The brain constantly identifies conceptual information from all things seen by the eyes. Vision and the eye-brain connections are more about recognizing patterns than understanding all the details. This ability is as old as humankind. Even with limited information, the brain picks up an image and makes some interpretations.

Evidence of the brain’s ability to “fill in the blanks” is why we are amazed by optical illusions. A great optical illusion is one where we see things that are not there in reality. The brain interprets the image to make up the missing pieces.

Advertisers know they only have a short time to get a message across due to our limited attention span. There is also the physical nature of our eyes darting about choosing what to look at about three times per second. Moreover, the brain can continue processing an image after seeing it, even briefly.

Researchers demonstrated that the brain could still process image data after seeing it briefly, even when the concept phrase was given after the images had been shown. The brain could look back to see if the image was recognized.

The test subjects did not know what image was the target when they observed the group of images flashing before their eyes. Yet, the brain remembered it, and this was how the test subjects were able to beat pure chance by identifying the images correctly.

Improving Engagement Using Digital Signage

The goal of digital signage visualization is to select images that quickly help a person understand an important business concept.

Suppose your firm sells home insurance. If fire damage is covered, you may want to use an image of a building on fire to convey the concept of the danger of a fire. How about showing a home on fire? Or take it to the next level with a family looking at a house on fire.

Without using a single word, you conveyed the fire risk, the danger to a home, and how the family can be safe. You could use the tagline, “You may have lost your home, but you did not lose them.” __ Insurance Company. This example shows how to use visual imagery to convey a message that getting home fire insurance is vital protection for a family. It is simple and powerful.

Attention-Grabbing Content Rapid Refresh

The tremendous advantage of digital signage is the ability to use software to manage the images for display. Based on the MIT research, there is no need to run through an image gallery slowly. It is reasonable to show the images in quick succession, maybe not as fast as the incredibly short duration of only 11 milliseconds, but at a blinking speed of 100 milliseconds is fine.

Once again, consider the example of home insurance. You could use a series of images that run in a loop. Each image may display for a fraction of a second and show the same family in front of a home damaged by different calamities. Using a series of these images could convey these risks to show what the home insurance covers.

The tagline and the company name can be repeated for each frame to stay persistent for long enough to be easily readable.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

Dictionary reports that an advertising executive Fred. R Barnard coined this phrase. To promote his advertising agency, he used a display ad in the magazine Printer’s Ink, published in 1921, with the tagline, “One Look is Worth a Thousand Words,” which he attributed to an ancient Japanese philosopher. Then, he used it again for an advertisement six years later, in 1927. He changed it to “Chinese Proverb: One Picture is Worth Ten Thousand Words,” featuring the phrase with some Chinese characters. He made up the attributions, thinking they would increase credulity. In the second version, he combined the tagline with Chinese characters to convey the concept of an Asian origin, proving his point.

Regardless of the made-up origin of the phrase, it is still true. A powerful image, even if shown only briefly, which conveys a concept, is an effective use of digital signage visualization.

Time is of the Essence

The average driver on the highway has the chance to look at a billboard for about six seconds. During that short time, the driver may be glancing back and forth at the signage and the road.

A Microsoft study found that the human attention span dropped to just eight seconds, which is 25% shorter than just a few years ago and less than the attention span of your average goldfish.

It is nice to know that the brain can keep up with the faster pace and register conceptual images rapidly. Flashing interesting images is made possible with digital signage empowered by the newest software.

It is clear that the use of conceptual imagery in advertising displayed on digital signage improves a viewer’s identification of key information.