Corporate Lobbies: The New Landscape of Digital Signage
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Sign China 2017 - Shanghai, China - September 19-22, 2017


Corporate Lobbies: The New Landscape of Digital Signage

In recent times through digital signage, culture and corporate branding have gained equal value as a premium opportunity to connect anchor tenants with their building visitors.

By Louis M. Brill

As skyscrapers have emerged over the decades, the corporate lobby has been a broad canvass for architects and anchor tenants to create lasting first impressions of a company's presence and brand. In such instances building lobbies have evolved from small reception desks and bare-bone stone wall waiting areas to Public Art lobbies with all manner of sculpture and painting.

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  • In recent times through digital signage, culture and corporate branding have gained equal value as a premium opportunity to connect anchor tenants with their building visitors.

    Here the corporate lobby should be considered less as a building entrance that funnels its visitors into the building and more as a golden opportunity for a corporation to present itself with a dramatic visual impact. Architecturally, it is the challenge of integrating all these dynamic requirements into a singular expressive entity. Thus the physical space of a corporate lobby has taken on new meaning as an extension of the anchor's tenant's corporate identity. The solution is to use that space as a way to present the company's culture and corporate mission to an ever constant audience streaming through the building.

    Public Art artist Jenny Holzer, who specializes in using language as art, transformed the 7 WTC lobby into a public discourse of text messages on the poetry and prose of New York City authors whose work evokes the history and spirit of New York City. The electronic Message Center was designed and fabricated by Sunrise Systems (Pembrooke, MA).
    photo credit: Andreas Keller

    Gone are the days of just hanging tapestries on the wall as a temporary art space. With today's emphasis on branding and all the available digital audio/visual media that can be brought to bare, the corporate lobby is becoming the "voice" of a corporation, showing it off as a "living" part of what it does for the public it serves. Corporate lobbies that have capitalized on this have used every display technology available from LED screens, LCD screens, video projectors and other forms of multimedia equal to portraying the company's presence in a dynamic fashion.

    As a way of making a first dramatic impression on employees and visitors to a building, the lobby has become a perfect starting point and digital displays offer the broad strokes and paint brushes to do so. In some instances the screens can be simple and functional, as in the New York City Museum of Modern Art where a strip of LCDs behind the reception desk becomes an electronic calendar of the day's events and a basic way-finding system to help visitors navigate through the museum. In a more sophisticated approach, the lobby as David Niles (Niles Creative Group, NY, NY) has noted, "offers itself as a stage to a vast transient audience passing by, some which have less than five-minutes to appreciate your corporate messages." Stage or gallery wall, architects, sign integrators and anchor tenants who have the vision and budget are redefining their lobby space into a media event of their own making.

    Reuters
    One interesting corporate lobby approach is presented by Reuters in Times Square whose building is covered in an 11-story media facade (LED screen manufactured by Mitsubishi Diamond Vision) and is a physical metaphor for the company representing its core function of gathering information and re-circulating it as print, radio, television and internet news. The huge display represents an antenna whose LED screen vertical presence takes a horizontal turn at the base of the building and ends in its lobby.

    IAC
    The IAC (InterActiveCorp.) company (Chelsea district, Manhattan), is a leading Internet company with more than 50 fast-growing, highly-related internet brands serving loyal consumer audiences that serves up to 307 million unique monthly users. With its various Internet brands, IAC provides "interactive" consumer access to a vast commercial and social internet community. The Frank Gehry-designed building with its distinctive "iceberg" shape is not only a destination because of its unique architecture, but also its lobby as well.

    To represent the company's activities, IAC commissioned a set of visual displays to be placed within its lobby areas that truly became the "voice" of its corporate endeavors. The screen technology was unique in that the company selected video rear projection as a basic presentation format for its displays. It was noted that video projection was chosen over LEDs because the viewing situation of a 10-point font at a foot away was a requirement that LED screens are not yet capable of.

    WORLD GLOBE
    The smaller lobby video screen behind the IAC reception desk shows off a complete 360-degree image of the Earth. Visitors are able to interactively activate the globe rotating it to any part of the planet. In doing so, they are able to view various company locations and observe in real-time, its worldwide web traffic as related to IAC business activities.
    photo credit: IAC

    In entering IAC's lobby area, visitors encounter two distinct world-class video display walls whose content presents a unique vision about what the company does. Content for both displays were developed in part by Unified Field (NY, NY), a multimedia company whose founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Eli Kuslansky described their services as consultants, designers and producers of large-scale displays, web sites, and immersive digital branding experiences. For the IAC lobby displays, United Field designed aspects of the visuals for each lobby display. Executive Producer for both videos was Warren Z Productions.

    Interactive Web Site Activity Map
    Installed in the east lobby area behind the IAC reception desk, a video screen (11-feet tall by 20-feet long) provides an interactive way for visitors to explore in real-time the worldwide web traffic as related to IAC business activities. The IAC visual data is in sync with a complete 360-degree 3-D data visualization of Earth.

    Visitors near the reception desk (East Wall) are able to interactively activate the globe to view up-to-the-minute real-time operational statistics of IAC's businesses. As described by Kuslansky, "Warren Z came up with the concept of a real-time snapshot of IAC's different brands in Internet action, and Unified Field produced the concept for them. We designed the graphic style of the visual display and created the graphic user interface of how lobby visitors interacted with the video display."

    MAIN SCREEN
    The IAC media wall serves the corporation, and the community and as well, student artists from nearby universities who are challenged to provide content to represent the various IAC corporate brands. Visitors are so taken with the media display that IAC has placed a beautiful wooden sculpted bench that runs parallel to the larger screen and allows them to sit and enjoy the display.
    photo credit: IAC

    World's Largest Video Wall
    Around the corner facing towards the West Side Highway, the other IAC video wall has the distinct honor of being one of the longest, seamless (11-foot tall by 118-feet long) video displays in a public space. To implement the video imaginary, the IAC display system employs 18 video projectors whose individual frame edges are seamlessly blended together to provide a continuous image that covers the entire video screen. Overall the media wall's content is divided into a series of modules to represent the various IAC corporate brands. For example, the Ticket Master module generates real-time representation of where its major concerts are taking place around the world, as the Ask.com delivers real-time news feeds to its lobby viewers. Unified Field's contribution to the Westside video display was the creation of one entire segment Ask.com, and the programming of some of the other video segments that appear on the video wall.

    The bigger video screen became a destination unto itself within the lobby area. To accommodate interest from its building visitors watching its displays, IAC has placed a beautiful wooden sculpted bench that runs parallel to the larger screen. Not only is the IAC media wall visible street side (as it faces the West Side Highway), but it also serves as an accessible space for organized events within the lobby area.

    Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

    World Trade Center
    Sunrise Systems, (Pembroke, MA), an LED manufacturing company specializing in outdoor and interior message center systems has transformed many a corporate lobby with electronic message centers. Henry Appleton, president of Sunrise has noted that the company has done at least eight or nine corporate lobbies with dynamic text displays. Many of these Sunrise LED message centers are very architectural in their installations conforming to interior building curves, wall placements or in some instances, built into lobby desk furniture.

    With 5-foot high streaming text at ground level, 7 WTC display can easily be enjoyed by nearby pedestrians passing building frontage, creating an animated public setting from the lobby to the sidewalk in front of the building. The electronic Message Center was designed and fabricated by Sunrise Systems (Pembrooke, MA).
    photo credit: Louis M. Brill

    As Appleton noted, "it's always the text content that defines these displays." as he referred to one of his most visible installations, at 7 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Here, 7 WTC utilized its lobby space for an inspirational Public Art display. With a commission to Public Art artist Jenny Holzer, who specializes in using language as art, transformed the 7 WTC lobby into a public discourse of text messages on the poetry and prose of New York City authors from Elizabeth Bishop and Allen Ginsberg to Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman - whose work evokes the history and spirit of New York City. It takes approximately 36 hours for the entire text to scroll by. The text is fully visible from the park outside the building, creating an animated public setting.

    Appleton described the 7 WTC display as a huge white LED message center (65-feet long x 5-feet tall) presented a single screen located behind the lobby reception desk and ran the entire length of the lobby area. Set at eye level, the screen was covered with a sheet of glass that not only protects the display, but acted as a diffuser making the text more readable.

    Comcast Headquarters
    Perhaps the most spectacular example of a corporate lobby display is within Comcast's Philadelphia headquarters' housed in its recently completed 57-story skyscraper. With a high definition LED screen manufactured by BARCO and completely covering the building's elevator bank wall (83-ft. long x 25-ft. tall), the high resolution LED video screen has not only transformed the lobby space into a public destination, but also an entertainment area with a growing audience.

    The COMCAST lobby high definition manufactured by BARCO, completely covers the building's elevator bank wall (83-ft. long x 25-ft. tall). The high resolution LED video screen has not only transformed the lobby space into a public destination, but also an entertainment area with a growing audience.
    photo credit: Niles Creative Group

    The video screen takes up one entire wall of the lobby atrium space and is filled with compelling video content that just about draws the attention of all building visitors and commuters passing through the Comcast lobby. All screen content and show control engineering was developed by Niles Creative Group (NY. NY) as a way of showcasing Comcast's mission as a media company. Rather a direct promotion for the company, the content was created as homage to the world around us (nature, outer space vistas, sports activity), and to downtown Philly. There is also some whimsy with a series of vaudeville vignettes dedicated to the visitors and viewers who all stop to watch the display.

    "We view the lobby media wall as the front face of the corporation," says producer David Niles. "The Comcast lobby space was conceived as a spectacular place to be in and where people would gather to energize the Philadelphia downtown area. We were challenged to create compelling entertainment that takes our audiences to "some place else momentarily and then brings them back to the lobby. The reward for both our company and for Comcast is to see the hundreds of people in each day's audience pointing, smiling and taking pictures of the lobby wall."

    A sign of distinction
    Given the importance of corporations maintaining direct and continuing contact with the public, lobby space has become valuable real estate for potential signage opportunities to create that first and lasting connection with the public passing through its portal. How that signage is deployed depends on the anchor tenant; it may be informational, it may be way-finding, or even whimsical entertainment.

    If it's done right, the passing viewers will never forget it. After all, the Comcast lobby display is so awe-inspiring that local schools are sending their students to view it, Philly tour destinations are seeking it out and local residents are known to bring lawn chairs to watch the displays weekend show. Now that's a sign of distinction that could set the bar for getting people to really pay attention to lobby displays.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech media communications. He can be reached at (415) 664-0694 or louisbrill@sbcglobal.net

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