Digital signs show the way on campus

Digital signs show the way on campus

Using digital signage to point campus visitors in the right direction

When mapping out how wayfinding should be incorporated into digital signage on campus, ease of use for students and visitors should be the top concern.

“The more information that can be presented visually, rather than textually, the more easily information can be digested in terms of wayfinding,” says Lyle Bunn, a digital signage expert based outside Toronto.

Beyond the simple interactive campus map, digital signs for helping people get around campus should have the ability to be updated in real time.

“Unexpected construction in buildings or closure of pedestrian walkways should be quickly input into the wayfinding software and affected routes updated,” says Bunn, who consults on digital signage projects for higher ed and other industries.

In addition, there should be the ability to make a query in multiple ways. If looking for directions to a professor’s office, a student may want to search by last name, department or classroom, says Bunn.

As far as equipment, colleges with tight budgets may be tempted to go with an LCD screen—but the more expensive LED is almost always a better choice, says Bryan Meszaros, digital media expert and managing partner at OpenEye, a video surveillance company. “LED screens show images better with higher contrast, have lower energy consumption, and last longer.”

Software can provide templates or give campus designers flexibility to create maps from scratch. The best choice for a particular institution depends on the design expertise and time availability of the person managing the software, says Meszaros.

Best practices include using high-quality images and bold colors to attract the attention of passersby. Sharp images on screens that are large enough to attract attention is needed, says Meszaros.

All signs that provide directional information must be ADA compliant, so a nonglare background is key, he adds. Any text must be easy to read and of a certain size, dependent on the height of the sign and how far it is from viewers.

Here are examples of how institutions are using digital signage effectively to direct and inform visitors about buildings on campus.

Wayfinding on the go

Smartphones put the power of digital signs in students’ pockets, and some institutions are boosting marketing efforts by integrating campus apps into university apps. D’Youville College in New York uses nuCloud maps that allow prospective students to remotely scroll through areas of interest. Students can also open the legend and navigate to a desired location. All building depictions are 3D and link directly to Google maps.

Trine University in Indiana also has an app powered by nuCloud. When a prospective student selects a specific building, exterior photos pop up so the building can be identified easily during a campus visit. Students can zoom out for a “flyover” perspective or zoom in to see where sidewalks are. The 3D art in Trine’s app was created by Mapformations.

When users open the app of Wisconsin’s Mount Mary University they can use a legend to sort by building type. Parking, security offices, dining and general information booths are highlighted with easy-to-identify markers.

Interactive paths

Duke University’s Student Affairs department and the Link Perkins Library have signs that use Four Winds Interactive software to direct people around the buildings. Students can select a room, class or event on the touchscreen and view the most efficient route to get there.

Directions via directory

Visitors to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry or Rackham Graduate School can search for rooms using a directory on signs manufactured by DYNICS. The Four Winds Interactive mapping software gives directions from the main entrances to specific rooms.

Simple lists provide directions during special events at the student center at Frostburg State University in Maryland. Students can search by floor to see where particular activities are being held.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Business Administration directory provides directions after a student searches alphabetically for an office or dining option.

Best practices in placement

The digital signs in the College of Business Administration building at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are placed at the north, east, south and west entrances, so wayfinding help is available no matter where a student enters. Sign covers designed by UNL desktop solutions staff and ASI Signage Innovations protect the delicate screens and are branded to the university to let students know they can find official information in these signs.

The 13 signs used in five of Western Iowa Tech Community College’s buildings were designed by software provider Visix and are also placed near entrances. The goal is to capture students’ attention immediately, and to lessen the time that information desk staff spend providing directions.

Oklahoma State University’s monitors, which were manufactured by NEC and protected by enclosures by Boyd Design, are placed outside of elevators and stairwells where people may exit into unfamiliar territory and get lost.


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