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Wayfinding trends: Modern digital signage caters to personal tastes and profiles of shoppers

Applications like Bluetooth-driven Beacon systems and cellular Wi-Fi systems can now be used to help people navigate space in a more profound way, writes CallisonRTKL’s Cody Clark.

December 23, 2016 |
CallisonRTKL blog

The process of utilizing wayfinding as a series of language cues within the environment dates back centuries. The idea of creating a “legible” city has its roots in establishing a clear and cognitive system for any environment. But cities have changed, and the cues that allow the citizens to connect and understand the environment in which they participate are changing, too. 

Advances in wayfinding have responded to our innate need to establish markers and identify patterns by creating immersive spatial relationships between users and areas. Signs, maps and directional aids remain in force, but there is now a digital framework that goes beyond providing basic information. 

Applications like Bluetooth-driven Beacon systems and cellular Wi-Fi systems can now be used to help people navigate space in a more profound way and to enjoy richer, more fulfilling experiences. This expansion has encouraged the rise of multi-device connectivity, or “Omni-Channel Experience,” that can tell users where they are, where they need to be and what they need to do when they get there from any device.

But creating this omni-channel experience means big changes for cities—specifically soft-infrastructural improvements. Case in point is our city-wide wayfinding and place-making strategy and design for downtown Las Vegas. Our team collaborated alongside development and key stakeholders to reinvent the user experience by enhancing the wayfinding approach to boost civic pride and create a connected multi-modal experience through an evolving 2035 Downtown Master Plan. Our enhanced user journey incorporates real-time resources in combination with on-site wayfinding cues to create touch-points that promote better pathways and exploration throughout the city. Working in conjunction with the city’s chief technology officer, our team identified the need to utilize benchmark technologies to not only redefine the perception of the image of the city, but to serve as a future-oriented system that could evolve as new technologies came online. 


Through our early stage integration and collaboration process, we helped define key system attributes that would allow the public to engage in a completely experiential way. The following technologies are within the tool kit of the future-oriented system:

INTUITIVE CONTENT DELIVERY SOFTWARE: Cloud-based content delivery tools are what turn blank screens into dynamic signage. The software, then, is as important to imaginative implementations as the hardware. 

OMNI-CHANNEL EXPERIENCE: Gen Z consumers are true omni-channel shoppers. They don’t just research merchandise online or go to a store to try it on or check it out on social media; they do all three. It’s more important than ever that digital signage is consistent with your brand and complements the online experience.

AUGMENTED PATHS NETWORK: Google and the San Jose Airport are testing the new ‘Tango’ technology platform in the terminal. This technology allows devices to utilize someone’s exact position relative to the space around them without GPS or additional external signals. This creates the possibility of location-based augmented reality (AR) within mobile applications. 

USER-CREATED HYPER LOCAL CONDITIONAL NEEDS & PERSONALIZED GUIDANCE: Engaging visitors on a hyper-local level can multiply profits and increase foot traffic. Digital Social Retail estimates pushing a specific product on digital signage can increase sales more than 60 percent for that product. Digital signage creates a natural pathway for brands to reconnect with each local audience by tailoring the content to each specific audience. 

SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION: In 2016, it would barely be an exaggeration to say that everyone is on social media. With 74 percent of all adults on the internet and 81 percent of all small and medium businesses in America using at least one social network, odds are that both your customers and competitors are making use of the medium.

RESPONDING TO A CHANGING MARKET: The challenge with integrated technologies is the fingerprint that they leave on an environment. Designers are constantly performing balancing acts between the limitations of commercially viable technologies and the physical aspects of spatial design. We are now being asked to perform our services as technology stewards—makers of not only our craft but as conduits for all things technology.

This service expansion has pushed our internal education into hyper-drive. Our goal is not to have a technology conversation; it’s to have a user experience conversation. We are utilizing technology as one palette available to us in design. In order to achieve seamless environments, we are integrating the following aspects into our work:

• INTERFACE-LESS AND TOUCH-LESS INTERACTIVITY: The experience of interactivity has moved past pushing buttons with a programmed patterned response. We are looking for ways users can personalize their technology experience by gestural or facial recognition, interactive projected surfaces or other haptic touch technologies. 

• SEAMLESS ENVIRONMENT PHILOSOPHY: During our strategic phase, we integrate our understanding of market dynamics, urban planning, architecture and wayfinding to create a series of tangible and intangible cues for the user journeys. These cues, such as online journey mapping tools to interactive gateway installations within a plaza, become touchpoints within a project or city. This integrated approach allows us to coordinate experience, placement and construction specifications early in the process and necessary infrastructure.

• CREATING BRANDED EXPERIENCES: From development capital summaries to leasing strategies or neighborhood event marketing, our brands provide the framework to deliver pointed messages to an audience. 

• NEXT-GEN HAPTIC TOUCH TECHNOLOGY: Since physical keyboards on smartphones are becoming less desirable, designers and programmers have been developing alternate tactile interactive methods. The desire to produce this tech will create an entirely new method of interactivity. Through virtual keyboards or gestural controls, the next-generation will address the market needs of diversity of experience and personal control.

About the Author: Cody Clark, LEED GA, is a vice president with CallisonRTKL in the Los Angeles office where he leads the Environmental Graphics Studio. Cody specializes in wayfinding and environmental graphics for mixed-use retail, residential, office, civic, hospitality and healthcare projects. 

CallisonRTKL blog | CallisonRTKL

For more than five decades, Callison and RTKL have created some of the world’s most memorable and successful environments for developers, retailers, investors, institutions and public entities. In 2015, our two practices came together under the Arcadis umbrella, expanding our sphere of influence and the depth and breadth of our resources. Our team is comprised of more than 2,000 creative, innovative professionals throughout the world who are committed to advancing our clients’ businesses and enhancing quality of life. Our firm-wide blog covers all aspects of architecture and design.

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