We know from our previous posts that design is important. From how to avoid mistake, to how to implement best practices, we are trekking steadily toward design expertise. Now it’s time for our sixth design blog: creating and using digital content backgrounds.
Backgrounds are the environments of your messages. Just like a backdrop in a play, they are often the first thing viewers see and the last thing they remember. No one finds a blank page engaging or memorable, audiences need something flavorful to digest. With all of the abilities that digital signage offers, why wouldn’t you incorporate a background into your design? Digital content backgrounds can either be extremely effective for customer engagement, or they can deter audience eyes. You’ll learn how to avoid the latter in this blog.
A colorfill is the most basic option for backgrounds because white backgrounds are often perceived as the opposite of creative. With digital signage, there is an even bigger reason to avoid white backgrounds- LED technology repels eye when it emits white. We don’t want that!
The trick to correctly implementing colorfill into your design depends on contrast. Light backgrounds work well with dark text, while dark backgrounds need light text. Black backgrounds are very effective if you are trying to increase legibility when displaying white text.
Color can affect message perception depending on cultural beliefs or audience personas.
For more information about which colors work best with certain viewers, check out our previous design blog: “Digital Signage Isn’t Always Black and White” (link).
There is a difference between featuring an image at the main component of your message and stretching a picture as your background. Remember, the purpose of a background is to create a visually appealing environment where your message can thrive. Don’t use an intricate picture (like a picture of the crowd at a sporting event) as it will distract from your message.
Also, be sure to never overlay text on the graphic, for legibility reasons. Put a text box down first. If absolutely necessary, only use text on the area of the image that has the least amount of detail (i.e. a blue sky.)
The key to choosing a picture for a background is to keep it theme appropriate, yet simple. Audience eyes will still see the background, but their attention will remain on the text- the perfect balance.
Texture can be a great alternative to color, as long as it doesn’t overpower the composition of the screen. Adding texture, or ‘noise’ to your template can give a tasteful a level of dimension. In other cases, it’s too much (i.e. some of the filters your friends use on Instagram). Just like our rule with images: keep texture subtle, or else it will be distracting!
Texture can also be used to highlight specific elements of your message. For instance, your logo or call-to-action can be “in focus” while a texture can overlay the rest of your design. Also, texture can be added behind certain areas of the design to act as a text box.
In digital design, background options are limitless. Depending on your message, they can be as wild or as conservative as you’d please. Background creation can actually be fun if you learn to enjoy the process! Remember to nix what doesn’t work and use what does. Be sure to avoid white backgrounds, as they repel eyes. Don’t opt for a picture that will distract eyes away from your message. And never allow a texture overlay to make your text unreadable. Legibility is king; if no one can read your message, what’s the point in communicating?
Guest blogger, Greg Crowson, the Digital Asset Management Specialist at RE/MAX University, shares his trick for turning short videos into digital signage campaign backdrops.
Short, 10-30 second videos can be transformed into animated backgrounds. Whether they are an abstract design or a time-lapsed scene, they give an extra dimension of sophistication to your digital signage messages. Here is how I’ve been creating animated backgrounds for digital signage content within CommandCenterHD. *Warning: This design tip blog is for content creators that have a Photoshop account.*
1. Find an HD wallpaper you like and save it to your computer.
2. Open iMovie and bring the HD wallpaper into your project, then to your timeline. Make the duration 10 seconds.
3. Apply Ken Burns effect to create a zoom on the graphic.
4. Drag the graphic from your media to the timeline a second time so you have two of the same files overlapping for 10 seconds.
5. Rotate the second graphic 180 degrees, and set transparency to 50%. Change the zoom effect to a different speed.
6. Share out to file at 1080p.
7. Upload the file as a video to ChannelsHD. Place your text over the video file to create your animated background slide.
I’ve set up a free account on the website videezy.com and downloaded some of the free HD content they have available. They have tons of free video backgrounds available. I simply take a screen grab of the video I want and bring it into Photoshop.
I build out the text of my campaign message within the photoshop file on a separate layer. Once everything looks the way I like, I turn off the background layer so that only my "text" layer for my video overlay is showing. I then save that out as a transparent bkgd PNG file.
You can also use the preset title screens in iMovie to plug in your text and export it all as one video. I prefer to build the text in Illustrator or Photoshop and layer it in. You can basically go out and shoot any short HD clips on your phone, in a Horizontal format of course, and then import it into your system. The effect is really cool in the end.