In Praise Of Boring Digital Signage

October 2, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Giant, big dollar display installations tend to get a lopsided amount of attention in this industry, so I always like to point out that some of the best work being done borders of profoundly boring – because they’re jobs done with narrow but valuable purposes.

My recent trip to the London, UK area involved no end of rides on the London Underground and regional passenger rail carriers. While some of the oldest lines on the London Underground can’t really support much n the way of technology upgrades, the new new lines can.

We purposefully stayed in a West London area serviced by the new-ish Elizabeth Line because the rail service is fast and relatively spacious, and it goes all the way across London and got us places quickly.

One of the things that struck me is the use of digital. There are multiple bar-type LCDs ceiling mounted in the cars, and they’re not there for peddling mobile carriers, hair products or crisps (potato chips). They’re up there to inform and guide passengers.

What I really liked was the cycling through of information that showed what the next stop was (easy), but more valuable, the state of other lines on the system. So if the Circle Line, for example, was experiencing Severe Delays, passengers could make Plan B decisions that avoid using that line (if possible).

Yes, people could get that information on their smartphones. But this is right in their face, and allows them to stare some more at TikTok or Instagram or whatever people are doing.

I also liked what I saw on regional rail lines, like the one we took up to Cambridge and back.

The rail cars had the same kinds of ceiling mounted displays, and did nice things like tell you which car you were in (important if certain stops have platforms too short and only some cars can let people off), the locations of services, and seat occupancy. Some sort of sensor triggered a notice on screens if a toilet was in use, for example.

Profoundly boring, I know, but soooo useful.

All the whiz-bang stuff out there is great to see, and the particularly whizzy stuff wins awards. But there is much to be said for those screens – particularly when tied in to real time information – that just help people find their way around and get from Pint A to B with the least hassle.



  1. Bryan Crotaz says:

    Many of us in the UK like to stagger from Pint A to Pint B with the least hassle!

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