BlogDigital Signage Tips

Fonts and Colors in Digital Signage

By September 5, 2008 3 Comments

By Mike Rivers, Technical Support Specialist, Scala

Mikerivers
When I was a kid I was asked to help make posters for a spring fair held by my elementary school. On a lovely Saturday afternoon in the Sixties, I assembled with my classmates, a few of the more artistically inclined Moms, some poster board, and boxes of those new fangled felt tip markers everyone was talking about at the time.

Of course, kids like to go nuts with colors, and we did our best to represent the name, date and time of the event as cleverly as we could with varying degrees of success. One bit of advice given by the parental supervision really stuck with me: “A good rule of thumb for designing circus posters is use no more than five colors and three fonts”.

I’ve used this advice in my adult life in several ways; everything from designing graphic user interfaces to writing press releases, all with varying degrees of success; mostly good I’m pleased to report. Some of the press releases…, well, that’s another story.

Today, there’s a great new opportunity to apply this venerable maxim, it’s with Digital Signage! Whenever I design content now, I think back to that Spring afternoon. I also refer to the mountain of reference books on computer art I have, but the most interesting questions I think are about the basics, use of fonts and colors.

How do designers decide on color schemes for digital signage? What guides their decisions regarding fonts? Obviously some clients will have corporate styles or branding that are pre-determined and need to be adhered to in the preparation of signage and ad campaigns. Sometimes the designer can have a an entirely free hand or is expected to concoct an new look for an ad. Either way, I’ve seen a lot on interesting tools on the web for the designer.

One of the most intriguing and most powerful tools is
Stumble Upon. It’s free; set up an account, set your page preferences, and stumble away. It’s better than TV! I’ll narrow the “stumble range” to graphics and kill some time seeing what people have been up to. It can be inspiring.

In the course of Stumbling, I’ve found tools like Eyedropper, that allows you to get the RGB, CYMK, or HTML values for colors on web pages.
Find a page with a color scheme you like? Get the color values and start experimenting! I hit a site called colortools.net that has some neat utilities (about a dozen or so) for working with color on computers. This approach can get you up to speed quickly on the subject of color.
There’s been volumes written about the subject over the centuries. My best tip is open your paint program and start collecting color schemes, find a good treatise on monitor color matching.

Use of fonts alone is a detailed subject. Is three enough? Are six too many? The answer: yes. A lot is said about adding interest with fonts, contrasting fonts, use of serif and sans serif, the list of subjects goes ever on. I get an idea in my head about what effect I want, and start collecting fonts.

When you get to a point where you have some idea of what you want to do, don’t be afraid to print some pages, cut things out and glue them back together. Always remember: have some fun, you deserve it!

For me it always comes back to that Spring afternoon: “A good rule of thumb for designing circus posters is use no more than five colors and three fonts”. Happy Designing!

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