Content That Comes In All Shapes And Sizes

Alex Hughes

CDC ITrans

We have seen large screens, VERY large screens, horizontal, vertical and cylindrical screens AND even 3D screens but I don’t recall seeing an L or J shaped screen before!

This modular, tiled screen approach is a great illustration of technological flexibility and innovation but it raises some interesting questions with regard content which I will explore in some depth here.

Whilst I took the picture above in Screen Technology’s Cambridge Demonstration Centre (CDC) the screen I am talking about is, of course a similarly configured one in the Harrods window during the month of May.

Such a prominent location and environment is all great for the industry of course HOWEVER here’s my take at it from a content creation perspective…

  1. As a content creator, what do I need to consider from a branding/product perspective when designing content for screens that are not traditionally rectilinear ie horizontal or vertical?

    The answer to this is almost certainly another question – and that is to consider for what reason am I creating a different shaped screen – does the nature of the screen shape have a specific function that will sell more of my product or is it simply to attract attention – both valid points after all, one of the fundamental reasons most advertisers advertise is to attract attention. Personally I think this is fine for now, however in the future as we see more and more innovative screen shapes and sizes then the need to differentiate will be to differentiate not just the shape and size of the physical screen but also how the content works with that shape and size as well.

    Which leads me to another point. The content winners will be those who use the shape of the screen in harmony with the content itself – they use one to compliment or work in conjunction with the other. A parallel can be drawn with the CBS Alive DEP’s – and the one that springs to mind that illustrates this point well is the Orangina Campaign where the content makes full use of the nature of the physical technology, within the creative idea.

    So, when designing content for different shaped screens, use the content and the creative idea to inspire the screen shape and size so both content and technology work together to deliver a more powerful proposition for both the advertiser AND the viewer.

  2. How does the physical nature of the screen impact on the design of my content?

    From a purely content design perspective, as a designer, my boundaries have suddenly shifted and as such allow me both further opportunities as well as some constraints. How can I use the space, the different shape to my full advantage, especially without it looking like I have a vertical screen I am designing for with a smaller cube shaped screen tacked on.

    In the Harrods example, we see the use of a full size model in the main area of the ‘J’ with the Jaeger brand identity ‘tagged’ on to the side – as this is advertising fashion this works well from a ‘label’ idea – it would be interesting to see how the animation/moving image resolves and how the tail of the ‘J’ works in harmony with the main upright of the ‘J’. Personally this shaped screen immediately inspires some creative thought of various uses, especially within the fashion/clothing industry – sliding blocks of clothing over a model moving left to right and up and down using the tail of the ‘J’ as the entrance/exit point – like those flip books that mix and match items of clothing. What works well in the photo is the extended use of the model – the clothing and thus product itself so it fills the screen without being inhibited by the brand identity which in this case is now adjoining the hero shot.

    The second issue in response to this question is looking at it from a technical-creative perspective. The DOOH business has been technologically led in part, and the technical issues are often much discussed with regard to the hardware. Then comes the content design issues but often in the shadows is the technical–creative issues which designers come across. More so in this business than anywhere else to a degree. If you are designing content for a number of networks then 9 times out of 10 you will be designing bespoke content for that individual network. There are few shortcuts as the technology employed by those individual networks is more often than not, unique to that network. Be it aspect ratios, screen resolutions, fps, data rates, compression techniques, file formats with or without sound capabilities, HD/SD squished or non-squished – as a creative you need to have a thorough understanding of what type of playout you are designing your content for and how that affects your content. And yes, this affects and has impact upon the look, the feel, readability, motion, style and creation of that content. Introducing unique sizes, shapes and layouts of screen only adds to the complexity – all of these considerations will need to be taken into account when designing for them.

  3. Finally, when we see something new and different, it sparks our imagination and we start considering what the future might hold – what will future screen shapes and sizes look like?

    This is possibly the early beginnings of what we might see in the future, where our surroundings will become the digital billboard – where the idea of a ‘separate’ display or even display element will start to become obsolete. Future technology will provide us with the opportunity to allow any surface shape or article to become a ‘screen’ – in the sense that any physical object will have the ability to display moving imagery. At its simplest think of your desk as a display – something that both Apple and Microsoft are currently working on. At its most advanced think of a 3 dimensional organic shape that acts as a screen to display information and moving imagery.

    Imagine a retail space where the design of a display system for Nike, for example, complete with products, lighting and its physical construction is not limited to where a 42″plasma can be displayed. Instead a surface, any surface, can be used as a means to display moving imagery or provide information about a product. Imagine a scenario where the interaction between product and display stand is fully integrated and seamless so the product becomes the display and as I lift a running shoe off its shelf, the shelf automatically displays information about available sizes, colours styles and what else I might like to buy if I were to buy this shoe. All via a “3 dimensional display surface” integrated with and fundamentally made up of the shelf itself and not just a small LCD panel located above the shoe.

    For the future of content design, this idea opens up whole new avenues of creative opportunity in terms of content creation, information delivery and product support, not only for DOOH content creators but also for designers of retail display systems.

So the ‘J’ shaped screen in the Harrods window has to be a good thing – stimulating debate, technical development and DOOH content creativity.

Go and have a look, have a think about what screen shapes and sizes might work for your networks or your clients as well as the impact these may have on the content you might display on these screens.

The question is not vertical or horizontal, the question is – should it be rectangular ????

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