Thursday, July 10, 2014

Digital Signage, Need to Know: Physical Factors for Effective LED Sign Use and Installation.

-Scott Hofheins

Outdoor LED signs are one of the most effective ways to advertise your organization to the public. They help you stand out, be seen and issue a call to action to potential patrons in a dynamic and colorful way. However, there are important factors that determine how much you stand out, and how clearly your call to action can be.

In addition to quality content, quality manufacturing, and a solid support team, their are basic physical factors that play a significant role in the success of your potential or existing LED sign program. Here are some of the factors to take into account.

There are some very important things to consider about the physical location of your sign. Some things will benefit you, others will not. Take some time to really think about where your sign is, or will be located and ways to minimize the negatives, and maximize the positives. Some examples include:

  • Stop lights and intersections: Do you have an intersection nearby? Where do the cars stop, and what is the best angle for them to see the sign? How long is the average driver stopped and how can you maximize the readability of your messages? While a nice busy intersection, with long stop lights is a dream spot for an LED sign, not everyone has this. The most important thing is really to use what you DO have.

  • Trees, Poles and Structures: This seems like an obvious factor to consider, but you don’t want to be installing a new sign in the winter only to realize in the spring that the bare branches are now full of sign blocking leaves. Trees and other plant life will grow over time, sometimes pretty quickly, keep this in mind when choosing a location around new trees or bushes. Poles and other structures don’t grow naturally, but they can be built and modified manually. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you know the local code to avoid your prime spot being illegal due to setback requirements.

  • Street Speed and Occupation: How fast are the cars going? How many cars drive past per day? What type of people can you focus your marketing on in those cars, bikes or tennis shoes? The answers to these questions will help you maximize the effectiveness of your current content and help determine the right size, resolution and height of your future LED sign.

  • Wall Sign, Street Sign or Both: Make sure you are maximizing the available signage allowed on your property. Remember, an LED sign can change dynamically so it makes more sense to go with a bigger LED sign and a smaller static sign. Price is always a factor in these decisions, but try to think of LED signs as an investment. By maximizing its effectiveness, you will increase the return on that investment.

This plays a key role in the readability of your sign and the types of messages you can utilize. Smaller signs will provide less room for text, so you’ll want to increase your text size and decrease your word count. Just because you can technically fit 8 lines of text on your sign, doesn't mean you should. Bigger text and simpler messages will always be more effective for any sign, but the difference is much more noticeable on smaller units.

You can get away with more on a larger sign, especially a billboard, but you still want to make your message large, and bold. You can fit more readable text on the display at one time, but the readability is still affected by how close the viewers are, how fast they are moving, and how high the sign is.

Height and Viewing Distance
How close will your viewers be to the sign? It’s important to get a really good handle on this, so you can create appropriate content for an existing sign, and make sure you purchase the right resolution for a new sign.

The higher you go, the bigger you want the sign to be, and the lower your pitch can be (the millimeters between the LED pixels) and still be effective. Big digital billboards high up the air may look like an 8mm high resolution board, but most of them will fall in the 16-25mm range. They are physically large, viewers are further away, and they have a large amount of pixels because of the physical size; distance between the pixels doesn’t factor in as much. However, a sign lower to the ground is going to be smaller, viewed closer, and have less pixels to work with so you want to fit as many into the physical size as possible to maintain a quality image.

During the day your sign is fighting against the sun. It must be as bright as possible, within reason (avoid outlandish brightness specifications) and hold it’s own for as many years as possible.

Additionally, managing your brightness at night is so important. Set your brightness settings, and trust your own eyes. Drive by the sign at night and make sure it’s readable. You do not want a spot light, you want a readable sign just a bit brighter than static lighted signage. If your sign is too bright at night, viewers will see the sign, but not the message you are trying to deliver.

LED Quality and Module Design
LEDs will dim over time, so make sure your manufacturer is using a high quality brand. Working with a US based manufacturer will increase your odds that the LEDs are sourced and binned correctly, from a trusted supplier.

The module design will also affect the life of the LEDs and the viewability of your sign in general. Using a flat black finish on the face of the LED modules (the panels of LEDs that make up the entire sign) is ideal. This helps absorb the sunlight and gives the sign a higher contrast ratio. The louver design is also important. These mini sun-shades block the sun from hitting the LEDs head on to avoid a “washed out” image. Poor louver designs can cause problems with viewing the display at an angle.

In summary, remember that there are many factors to take into account when operating an existing LED sign, or purchasing a new one. Look for partners who are experts in the business, and can provide you exactly what you need, not what they want to sell you. Take the time to write down all the factors at play for your specific location and put yourself in the shoes of your viewers. Announce your message loud and clear: We are here, We can help you, Come in Now!


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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