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How to power up placemaking through digital signage


Matthew Drury, sales and marketing director
Saturn Visual Solutions

Place-making – it’s far from being a new concept but, right now, the art of turning spaces into places is arguably at a peak.

In the post-pandemic, post-lockdown world, people are increasingly seeking out in-person experiences, a renewed sense of community and enrichment through the enjoyment of physical locations.

We’re seeing this reflected in the resurgence of brick-and-mortar retail, which is defying previous predictions of an ecommerce wipe-out, thanks to reinvention and repurposing. 

Mixed-purpose venues such as market-places with pop-up food and beverage offerings, or retail centres that feature a multitude of leisure attractions like bowling, VR experiences and break-out rooms are some of the most popular places to spend time and have cross-generational appeal. 

Their strength lies in carving out a presence as go-to destinations, places that people want to visit time and time again, because they offer reward in terms of enjoyment, engagement, and togetherness.

This need to develop a true sense of place translates to the work-place too. In a bid to lure employees back to the office, businesses are having to shape environments where teams and individuals want to spend time. Here, again, nurturing a community feel is important, as is being able to offer social and wellbeing enrichment.

Turning a space into a sought-out place can seem daunting though. Thankfully, there are plenty of great examples and case studies to learn from. 

At Saturn Visual, what we’ve discovered through our work with retailers, leisure operators and businesses is that a sense of place can be conjured in spaces of all shapes and sizes. There will be design elements common to all successful, well-used places and one of these vital components is digital signage.

Signage is an invaluable tool in any placemaking kit. Tapping into its power can help to turbocharge a placemaking project and here’s how:

Foster a sense of identity – place branding

Popular places have a strong sense of identity that is both explicit and implicit. The strategic use of digital signage can help to galvanise this destination-type feeling by creating a mood and stamping a clear brand presence throughout a space. The clever use of animation, impactful imagery, thought-provoking content and ambience-creating colour palettes through digital signage installations can all help to shape and reinforce the identity of a place. 

Places can also be imbued with heritage and cultural value, through digital displays that draw attention to an area’s history and help to make visitors feel like they are part of the destination’s evolving story.

Inject fun and engagement

Nobody wants to spend time in boring places. Digital assets such as high definition LED walls, touch screens and self-service kiosks can add a new layer of stimulus and engagement to a space. Digital displays are designed to draw people in. They help to provide the essential magnetic element required in placemaking. Our favourite places trigger positive emotional responses and digital signage can enable this. It can be used to share narratives, designed to induce emotion and connect a place to a positive psychological experience.

Boost interaction and personalisation

Digital signage interactivity bridges the gap between online and offline experiences, helping to provide the level of information and stimulus required by today’s building and venue users. Through the use of touch screens and motion sensors, digital signage is also able to provide the unique, personalised experience that many are seeking out. It can offer instant access to wayfinding tools, useful facts and narratives and can heighten engagement and enjoyment even further through the inclusion of games and image upload options. 

Content can be triggered on display screens by motion sensors, which allow a place to respond to visitors, as much as they respond to it.

Support inclusivity

Successful placemaking is underpinned by inclusivity. And interactive digital signage can help to ensure general appeal by levelling places up and making them more accessible and inclusive. 

In fact, it’s difficult to envision placemaking inclusivity without the use of flexible and interactive digital signage tech these days. Consider, for instance, how it can be employed to provide audio information for visually impaired visitors. It can display QR codes that enable individuals to access informative audio content through their own mobile devices. A range of other applications are possible – altering font sizes to aid reading accessibility, providing wayfinding support that’s tailored for disabled people, or offering content in a variety of languages. Digital signage has the power to adapt in increasingly innovative ways to support inclusivity – depicting messages in sign language is just one example – and can more than prove its placemaking value here. 

Equip the imagination

If you take a moment to think of your favourite places, outside the home, today – the places that pull you back, that are vibrant, welcoming and engaging, the chances are that they will contain an element of digital signage. If these assets are selected and managed correctly, they blend in and become part of a place. Ensuring this means seeking out expert help and equipping the placemaking imagination with the tools to bring a vision to life. No matter where you are on your placemaking journey, digital signage can help to enhance the end result, shaping alluring destinations which stay in the memory for all the right reasons.

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