Does design matter in multimedia kiosks and digital signage?


The Design Council published a study in 2005, regarding Design’s impact on profit, where the portfolios of 63 companies traded on the FTSE were considered. It was found that, in the United States, over the ten-year period between 1995 and 2004, companies focused on design surpassed the FTSE index 100 by 200%. With this data we can say that design is an investment that proves to have quite the return, so it shouldn’t be an overlooked aspect in any product.



A multidisciplinary process at heart, design is currently perceived as a holistic concept, taking into consideration every field that it impacts within a project.

Design has seen its definition change over the years; while it can still be perceived as a concern with aesthetics, the prevalent definition highlights the concern with function (how it works) as well as with user experience (UX) and user interaction. This overlaps with design thinking, the mindset centered in the user, serving as the source of design related decisions. The notion of design as a way of thinking can be tracked to as far back as 1969 in the field of Science, with Herbert Simon’s book “The Science of the Artificial”, or 1973 in the field of Engineering, with the book “Experiences In Visual Thinking”.

Before, design was considered individually – occurring quite at the end of the process, it was viewed as a belated concern with aesthetic attractiveness or brand appeal (through well-executed advertising) – and the only application was on the product itself.

Today, design is viewed as a concern that can optimize the entire process, going as far as improving how an organization works. We can say that a good designer will prioritize functionality over looks. For instance, if you need a new logo, a good designer will consider what the company is about, which information is worth displaying – as well as competitors, market trends, etc; in sum, it isn’t just creating a new logo but a new communication medium that needs to be in tune with the rest of the company’s message.

In fact, it could be said that communication is a company’s most important asset, having the power to change the consumers’ perception of itself and its products.


The Good and The Bad

Being that design is such a broad discipline, it can be difficult to understand which characteristics are commendable within a design, and which are – preferably – to be avoided. However, some ground rules are ever present across all design applications, such as what improves the experience and what gets in its way.

Bad design can be perceived as a hindrance – instead of facilitator. Since it is an added interference it might even drive potential interest away, getting in the way of a sale.

We sometimes get frustrated with ourselves for not being able to properly use a common object. However, that frustration can be blamed on the design of the object.

Jared Spool has clarified that “Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible”. A user centred process allied with consistent branding results in good design, and good design assists with getting the message across. He went on to say that “It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.” From the moment that the product runs smoothly, we are much more likely to not even think about how it works. However, if something isn’t up to par, it gets noticed almost immediately – even if we can’t pinpoint what’s wrong with it, we know that there is something amiss. In fact, without a “design trained eye”, we mostly only realize the design is lacking when the product works poorly or not at all.

Design has a direct impact on the purchase process – it influences how customers feel about a product, as well as the subsequent engagement and purchase process. This can also be referred to as the attractiveness bias, which means humans perceive beautiful products as being better, without taking into account their performance.

In the end, however, design needs to assist the end user accomplishing their goals, providing the secondary communication details that help us understand how to operate any device. For instance, in our smartphones, the way to navigate to the main page is placed in the bottom middle part – with or without a physical button to push, the location has remained the same since the very first ones, and it actually contrasts with the placement of the menu button on earlier mobile phones.

Design thinking has been increasingly used, not to change the product, but to fulfil consumers’ needs through the combination of strategic viability with technology application. The main goal of Design thinking is to ease interactions between users and platforms, meaning it can be applied everywhere, from methodology to final product.


Is it worth it?

Digital signage and multimedia kiosks rely on the way the information is presented to the user. Design will optimize it, assuring a seamless user experience and a subsequent higher ROI.

We will, in fact, correlate the experience we had using a brand’s experiential marketing device with the way we perceive the brand itself – which means that having a smooth, flawless experience is essential to improve its relationship with the consumer.


Beatriz Eiras

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