By Leslie Gallery-Dilworth
As designers, architects and artists become more familiar with digital media, a range of technologies are significantly influencing their work. Indeed, these technologies may soon become just another tool in their box or another material to choose from.
For this to happen, however, there is a need for these professionals to begin to work far more closely with manufacturers, installers and integrators who specialize in digital signage, dynamic lighting and related technologies. Similarly, it will behoove many professionals in the sign industry to become more knowledgeable about how to communicate with—and understand the priorities of—architects, designers and artists.
Collaboration and better communication are essential at all stages of a project, but in particular, dialogue needs to be invited at the earliest conceptual stages.
Today, one major obstacle is the difference in objectives between manufacturers, their sales representatives and integrators on one side and the world of designers on the other. For the former, there is an understandable interest in focusing on sales quantities, i.e. the number of products sold. Architects and designers, however, are not interested in quantity, but instead in finding one system for a specific situation.
Further, designers rarely prioritize the use of the newest technology. They do not start the creative process for a given project thinking, “I would really like to use that product!” Instead, they want to know about a range of options, their technical qualities and their costs before determining which will be optimal for expressing a design as a physical reality.
As digital media technologies have evolved from signs, billboards and video screens, these components are being incorporated into the design palette for built spaces. With costs coming down, more technology is being incorporated into environmental graphic design (EGD), branding, wayfinding and ‘architectural storytelling.’
As mentioned, however, architects and designers can only use digital media more creatively if there is closer collaboration between the fields. Even today, most architects have only a limited understanding of the sign industry’s range. In their view, rectangular digital signs are all too common, cluttering the environment inside and outside a building, creating a sort of visual cacophony in public spaces.