Screens @ North Quad

By September 12, 2012north quad

North Quad features digital screens in several areas of the building. These monitors can be seen featuring digital signage, artwork, and interactive exhibits! Locations include the Lobbies, the Media Gateway, Space 2435, and the Residential Hall. This article reviews best practices for creating content geared towards our Lobby Screens and provides an overview of each location.


Content Creation

Interested in promoting your campus event, course, or organization on our Lobby Screens? Getting started is easy! The digital signs in our Lobbies are geared towards static graphics.  First, select your favorite design application such as Photoshop, Powerpoint, Acrobat, or similar programs. For motion video or interactive content, contact us to discuss potential Media Gateway or Space 2435 exhibits!

Content for our digital signage should be landscape orientation and sized between 1280 × 720 and 1920 × 1080 (16:9 aspect ratio) with a suggested minimum 24 Font Point. Files can be saved as either JPEG or PDF. To send us content, please contact us to submit your request.


Best Practices

The following sections provide select best practices for working with static digital signage. When creating content for our Lobby Screens, readability is an important consideration. These tips will help you to achieve this goal:

High Contrast

Using high contrast color combinations allows your text to stand out from the background and catch the eyes of potential viewers. High contrast colors combinations work to draw viewers’ attention to your sign and are hard to ignore! The following examples compare high contrast (left) and low contrast (right) combinations:

Intent & Composition

When composing your sign, it is important to consider your “call to action“. If your intent is to inform about an event, the text content on your sign should be limited to the core information required to achieve this goal. Information provided beyond the Date, Location, Subject, and Audience may detract from the overall readability of your sign. Limiting text content to this core information will help you to recover screen “real estate” to work with on your canvas. Deliver a single focused message and use active voice and action verbs. A clear call to action can often be conveyed using intuitive images in place of words:

If you wish to direct viewers to more detailed information, you may want to consider linking to an online resource. The easiest way to incorporate a URL into your sign is to use a URL Shortener such as TinyUrl or a QR Code generator. Smartphone users will be able to follow your link by imaging the QR code with their mobile device. For example, the QR code below links to this blog post:


Font size and selection is important! We suggest a minimum of 24 point font when composing static signs for our screens. Signs with small font point are often overlooked as viewers will encounter your sign while standing some distance away. In addition to font size, selecting a sans Serif font has been shown to enhance on-screen readability. The following graphic demonstrates this distinction:

Size & Aspect Ratio

The screens at North Quad are 16:9 aspect ratio and run at a resolution of 1920 x 1080. When composing your static sign, be sure to select landscape orientation. To ensure that your sign appears correctly on our screens, select a resolution that is compatible with 16:9 aspect ratio such as 1280 x 720, 1366 x 768, or 1600 x 900. For the highest clarity it is recommended to start with a canvas size of 1920 x 1080 exactly. The following figure demonstrates a 16:9 aspect ratio:


The following examples are signs with great readability! These signs have previously appeared on our North Quad screens. Credit in order of appearance: Sweetland Center for Writing, Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, UM3D Lab, UMMA, and the College of Literature, Science & The Arts.

Additional Resources

For further tips and effective design practices check out the following resources:



The North Quad lobbies participate in the ITS Digital Signage project. These screens display a weekly listing of Space 2435 and Media Gateway events, @umnorthquad tweets, and are host to a rotation of digital signs created by U of M Faculty, Staff, and Students. Content on these screens is intended to promote events, courses, and inform about organizations and activities on campus.

Space 2435

The screens in Space 2435 are used most commonly alongside events held in the space. Presenters may opt to display their content on two large projectors and six LCD monitors. These monitors may also be set up as workstations to provide an interactive environment to event attendees. In addition to displaying event related content, these displays may be used to showcase new-medi artwork and film. Contact us if you are interested in utilizing the technology in Space 2435 in conjunction with an eventexhibit, or art installation!

Residential Hall

University Housing maintains the LCD Monitors throughout the Residential Hall. These screens feature social media content and serve as a nexus for events and activities for North Quad’s residential community.

Media Gateway

The Media Gateway features seven 46″ displays. These monitors feature local and international photographyartwork from U of M students, and may also be used to showcase research. If you are interested in displaying photographic work, presentations, or research; contact us to request an exhibition of your content!

The central screen in the Media Gateway is used to showcase interactive demos and live streaming events. The following two visualizations have been showcased previously on this “center stage” display:

Milk Drop

Milkdrop is a real-time 3D visualization. Jam packed with pixel-shaders and fractals, Milkdrop is being used to create Generative Art from Ambient Audio in the Media Gateway. That’s right, make some NOISE, you drive the artwork!


Twingly is a screensaver that visualizes global blog activity in real time. Forget RSS readers where you see only what you’re interested in. With Twingly screensaver you get a 24/7 stream of world wide blog activity, straight to your screen.


Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap’s objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.



We are always looking to collaborate with students and faculty to explore advanced uses for our digital signage. If you have an interaction or visualization project, feel free to contact us. Our signs support a wide array of media and can run hardware accelerated, full screen applications. Ideas for potential collaboration include the following topics: internationalism, new-mediaimmersion, inclusion, awareness, connectivity, and other multi-disciplinary projects!


Coming in 2013…

Here is a small sneak peak at something special coming to the Media Gateway in 2013. Get ready to let loose, create, explore, and interact with a natural user interface: Leap Motion.