Signs of the Future: Will Digital Signage Go the Way of the 8-Track Player?

Digital signage – both dynamic digital and interactive touch-screen displays – are all the rage in the architectural industry these days. Everywhere you turn these days, it seems like you can see digital displays popping up in places where you once would find a point-of-purchase printed board or in some cases, a person manning an information desk. Heck, we even found digital signage on top of gas pumps to take the place of the plastic triangular signs like you see on top of a taxi.

Therefore, digital signs must be the wave of the future, right? Well, let’s have a little fun and do some “Nostradamus-like” predictions (or should we say “Nostra-signage”) about what signage will look like in the future and let’s see if digital signage as we know it today will still be around.

Prediction: By the end of the next decade, you will see entire walls turned into personalized content platforms and digital signage as you know it today will be as passé as 8-track tapes from the 70’s.

Considering that innovative companies such as Google are already working on the next generation of devices and software to interface with the Internet, is it really such a stretch to have built environments with walls that display 1-to-1 information and graphics? Like any great technological leap, it would seem simple on the surface but the technology would be cutting edge. Here’s how it would work: the user has a device that looks and work like eye glasses or contact lenses that functions like smart phones we use today. The device uses high-speed public WiFi and sends information requests to the wall (for conversation sake, let’s call the wall a “personal information display”), which in turn displays personalized information on a frequency that only that user can see. For those people not wearing the eye device – and even those who have the device but choose not to interact with the wall – it might just look like the decorative wall panels that 3form currently offers.

Here is an “8-track quality” depiction of what a personal information displays could look like.

Prediction: Even with the advent of “personal information displays,” standard interior and exterior signage will still be around.

This prediction may not seem as obvious at first, but all you have to do is look back through time to see what has survived from ancient civilizations. We can still see signage and pictograms from Rome and the ancient Egyptians. Therefore, it is very likely that custom monument signs that complement the architectural style of a building will still be around. The same goes for dimensional letters inside a building and even static regulatory information signs.

Do you think we are wrong? Please let us know…but consider the following before you criticize the wise and all-seeing “Nostra-signage’s” predictions: In 1995, Apple was a company on the edge of the abyss — headed for the trash bin of history. Apple stock was trading for (literally) pennies. Then, a forward thinking man named Steve Jobs took control of the company and dared to think beyond the company’s antiquated personal computer business model. Fast-forward five years. By the beginning of 2000, Apple gave birth to the software and the personal device that has literally transformed the music industry and put the once mighty music CD and the ubiquitous shopping mall music store on the endangered species list. Today, Apple is trading above $600 PER SHARE and it arguably one of the most influential companies and offers some of the most sought-after products in the world.

The moral of the tale: Don’t get so wrapped up in what is popular today that you miss the future that is heading toward you.

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