While I was out and about last weekend doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, I had the opportunity to visit Grandscape, the new mixed-use shopping and entertainment venue just north of Dallas in The Colony, Texas. As one of the Dallas area’s newest entertainment destination venues, Grandscape is home to several SNA Displays outdoor LED screens, and I wanted to see how my company’s product looked in real life. Travel restrictions have kept me from visiting many of our well-known project sites, but fortunately our plentiful work in Dallas gives me plenty to see.
Bottom line, the LED displays looked great, but the experience made me realize that I see digital signage differently now than I did before I started working for SNA Displays. How, you may ask? Well, for starters, I would never have used the term “signage” before now.
Industry jargon aside, however, I’ve come to realize why thinking digital has become so important to architectural and design considerations when developing a new property. I’m mostly laser focused when I shop so I tend to ignore advertisements and decorations in general. Not to mention I worked in a shopping mall over several Christmas seasons where tuning out holiday content like decorations and music was essential to getting though my shift with my mental health intact.
So, for something to get my attention, it has to really stand out, like an enormous ellipsoidal LED screen built into a reflecting pool (like the one I encountered when I arrived at Grandscape). Yea, that would do the trick. And once that got my attention, I saw how important the rest of the digital network was to the venue.
From the giant LED screens overlooking Grandscape’s lawn and outdoor stage to the L-shaped marquee at The Galaxy Theater, eye-catching content kept me informed about what was going on at the venue, gave me important public-safety announcements, and provided some nice artistic content to enjoy while I rested my feet. Essentially, LED displays can make or break a location’s overall vibe. Too little, and they seem out of place; too much, and you can get overwhelmed.
Grandscape is a nice case study for the concept of an entertainment district. Simply put, an entertainment destination venue is a place you intentionally visit with the purpose of being entertained. It is a destination unto itself. In my case, I drove about 45 minutes to visit a sporting goods store in Grandscape and stayed to explore the rest of the venue.
The entertainment complex is spread out over a good-sized area but still very walkable. It has large outside sections, including a lawn with a stage and giant screen for outdoor concerts, making it a great hangout spot when the weather is nice. If the larger stores on the premises, like the Nebraska Furniture Mart, don’t have any appeal, you can meander toward some of the cute boutique stores, enjoy fresh coffee while lounging by the fountain, or eat at one of several restaurants. If the weather isn’t great, you can visit the movie theater or the indoor racetrack and gaming facility. Future developments include office and living space and hotels accommodations.
Another interesting digital signage elements in this venue was the touch-screen LCD kiosks. The interactive map helped me find my way around and created another medium for advertisements and public-service announcements. See American Dream for another excellent example of this technology in action.
Of course even the best LED technology in the world will underwhelm viewers if it doesn’t have good visuals. “Content is king” as they say. I can look at an intricate physical structure and think, “Wow, that must have been hard to make.” I’ll probably also forget about it by the time I drive home. To really get that “wow” factor that makes you whip out your cell phone so you can share it later with your mom (yes, I still show my mom the cool stuff I work on) you need custom, optimized artistic content. Creative consultants like The Barnycz Group, who served as the experiential designer for all aspects of the Grandscape project, are essential to creating a meaningful experience (and one that can generate the kind of buzz that keeps people talking about that really cool LED displays they saw while out shopping).
Now when I see digital signage, I take a much closer look at how it’s set up and what it intends to accomplish. The last few years have seen many new entertainment complexes sprout up and most of them are incorporating LED screens as a vital means of advertising, digital wayfinding, or artistic expression. It will take a unique combination of skills and expertise to make sure the digital element is done well, but I for one look forward to seeing this trend continue.
Zachary Todd is a communications associate with SNA Displays, copywriting and editing a variety of communications material such as company news releases, blogs, and case studies