The “10-Foot Rule” and Other Viewing Distance Considerations

I was recently asked my opinion on guiding principles for content prepared for close-up viewing versus long distance.  My immediate response was that there was a category missing there.  The Almo Content Design team looks at viewing distance as three different categories, not two.  We design for 3 feet/1 meter for close up viewing screens, such as wayfinders, 10 feet/3 meters on informational screens and greater than that for retail/outdoor.

The “10-Foot Rule” demands legibility and clarity to ensure content at a distance is delivered accurately within the moments it takes for a simple glance.  When my team works on informational screens such as menu boards or employee communication screens this is an important consideration that will drive font and icon sizing, color contrast and animation principles.  We are careful to use timelines instead of cramming the screen with too much at once.  In fact, our mantra is “less is always more when it comes to design on informational screens.”

When you’re working on content for touchscreens, design principles follow mobile app design guidelines.  Consistency within the overall user interface (UI) becomes extremely important.  Every day we all interact with a touch screen UI that breaks consistency rules.  For example, an ATM where the “OK” button changes location from prompt to prompt not only confuses the viewer, it slows the interaction.

For larger screens, especially outdoor, the rule tightens.  The message must be legible, of course, but more importantly it must be concise.  The “5-Second Rule” isn’t really five seconds anymore – it’s less.  Color, contrast and concise messaging become key.

Do you have any “rules” you follow when determining your digital signage designs?  

Leave me a comment and let’s start a conversation.  And stay tuned for more of my expert advice as I come back each month with a brief thought on a single aspect of digital signage.

Refined Southern Fare with a Story Only Digital Signage Can Tell

As a nod to The Kentucky Derby, a few classic cocktails were in order to celebrate New York’s Always Dreaming, the colt who was “ready to run” at Churchill Downs on Saturday and bolted over the finish line in first place despite the mucky track and acclaimed list of contenders.  A classic Mint Julep and craft Vodka Martinishaken not stirred-  a real James Bond way to start off the evening and we’re off to the races!

The restaurant business has evolved in the last decade with more importance than ever being placed on the quality of ingredients.  Daily Specials that used to offer what restaurants needed to closeout now feature dishes with seasonal ingredients and other buzz words like sustainably-sourced, organic, locally grown and gluten free.  Beyond great food, careful consideration goes into meticulous details that create the guest experience that will ultimately leave a lasting impression, for better or worse.  Kitchens have transitioned from being as far away from the dining room as possible to becoming a major element of restaurant design where the bustle of meal preparations actually contribute to the restaurant’s vibe. At Restaurant IRON, downtown Pensacola, FL in the heart of Palafox Street, their cozy kitchen isn’t just visible from the dining room…  For guests who want a closer look at the action, limited seating is available at the chef’s counter- a dining area overlooking the kitchen where guests become fully immersed in the experience to the point you almost feel part of the delicate dance between Executive Chef, Alex McPhail and his skillful team.

Although the décor is sleek and contemporary with an industrial flair, it was interesting that audio visual technology was minimal throughout the space.  Other than only a couple small (consumer grade) speakers for ecclectic background music and a hint of bass just enough to remind you this was a swanky place, this was a dining experience where the music didn’t overpower or obstruct your dinner conversation, a trend we’ve seen in recent years that many establishments have used to create atmosphere, or so they call it.  It was nice for a change to actually be able to hear well enough to have conversations with the parties next to us as we sat at the chef’s counter.

In fact if you listened closely with a little lip-reading to fill in the gaps, you could even catch a glimpse of the orders being called out to the kitchen staff by the chef.  To someone with years working in restaurants, it brought back such nostalgic feelings as it often does.  There’s nothing like watching a well-run staff (and kitchen in this case) in the high of the dinner service rush – these days from the other side of the table as a guest in great company enjoying the fine dining experience.

With roots in New Orleans, Bar Manager, Campbell Esquerre’s move to Pensacola has hit the mark with IRON’s craft cocktail inspired bar.  But between the kitchen and bar, let me tell you this place has stories to tell!  What if traditionally-printed dinner and drink menus were supplemented by the latest digital signage technology to up the ante inside the restaurant?  Statistics show digital signage drives revenues and there are plenty of creative ways a fine dining restaurant (whether in a standalone location or as part of a hotel property) can use technology to add visual interest to tell the story of the restaurants’ delectable food and intriguing libations and can also be used as an architectural or artistic design element known as techoratingNeed a few ideas? 

  • Content on making one-of-a-kind aged whiskey in miniature sized oak barrels right in the restaurant combined with footage on crafting one of IRON’s Smoked Manhattan cocktails by the restaurants’ bar manager (who happens to be a regular competitor at regional bar tending competitions).
  • Images from the local farmer’s market where some of the produce is sourced in keeping with the restaurants’ theme of local vegetables and herbs.
  • Footage of new seasonal menu items being artfully plated by the executive chef or pastry chef.

Chances are that many folks already get the concept that could be mimicked in digital signage but they’re using it in places outside the restaurant to help drive traffic to them from social media sources like Facebook or Instagram or other advertising media.  Almo resellers can help the hospitality industry take that message inside to drive revenues and boost profits during the guests’ stay while they’re ‘in the heat of the guest experience’ as we say.  The above pictured Samsung hospitality and pro units provide several different size options and the UD22B can even be used in a unique video wall configuration to create visual interest in an artistic way and can show one image/source across the entire array or multiple sources on each panel providing countless options for featuring food or restaurant shots, video content or promotional items like the gift card feature (right image).


What makes a hospitality business successful?  Long-standing places get their reputation by word of mouth, (we’ll save REVIEWS for another blog) but the bottom line is that the hospitality business is based on repeat customers, without them their days are numbered; whether it means they close their doors, are sold to new ownership or undergo a re-branding.  The best thing a reseller can do to help a hospitality client increase revenues using digital signage is to get to know their business, their mission, what makes their business unique, what they’re already doing for self-promotion and what their objectives are for adding a digital solution inside their space… but if this seems like too much to remember, don’t worry we’re here to help.

Our visit to Restaurant IRON was exceptional.  From the Kentucky Derby Mint Juleps and James Bond Martinis straight through to the Nutella Pie with salted pretzel crust and everything in between, the IRON team has passion and that’s an energy guests can see and feel.  In a quote by Campbell Esquerre when he expressed his mission was to “ensure the best possible service all while making new friends and repeat customers” it is obvious these guys are practicing what they preach and we will surely be back!

Happy Visitor from Snowy Canada Enjoys 65” SunBrite Veranda Display in Fort Lauderdale

I had one happy visitor at my home last month.

My dear friend Blair lives in Nova Scotia, on the Southeastern tip of Canada… up near Maine.  He came for a long overdue visit, and I’m sure at the time there wasn’t a happier Canadian anywhere in the Lower 48.

Plenty of things contributed to his joy.  Our beautiful beaches, his many friends, some of his favorite restaurants…  But my friend Blair was happiest enjoying the beautiful March South Florida weather and spent much time in the Chikee Hut watching anything and everything on the 65” SunBrite Veranda Series display that I’d recently had installed.

One very happy Canadian
Photo of Blair’s car in Canada while he visited FLA

I love my Veranda display for what it is.  4K UHD, bright, rugged and extremely affordable (SRP of $1,499 for 43”, $1,999 for  55”, and $3,499 for 65”).  An added benefit, especially working for Almo Pro AV, is being able to brag with authority about the impressive features of the entire line, which includes not only the Veranda Series for full shade applications but also the Signature Series for partial sun applications, Pro Series for full sun and active areas and Marquee Series for full sun and active areas outdoor digital signage.

Blair is pretty into technology, and was thoroughly impressed when I explained the virtues of these hearty displays.  While the bright picture is immediately impressive, SunBrite goes through great lengths to ensure a perfect viewing experience.

Since 2004, SunBrite has specialized in outdoor TVs and nothing else, and each class of display is considered an outdoor appliance.  Unlike indoor TVs that have an electrical hazard risk if used in any wet, outdoor environment, careful measures were taken to ensure the safety of installers and end-users against electric shock.  You will not see the hazard symbol on any SunBrite Display, because it is not necessary!

Designed and engineered in the United States, SunBrite stands behind their products with a one-year warranty for Veranda Series displays and two year warranty on Signature, Pro and Marquee Series displays.  The warranty is on-site and includes parts and labor, offering peace of mind that these displays will perform to expectations.

The extensive testing that guarantees these displays are truly the best in outdoor displays surely drove it home for me and my houseguest.  To top it off, how can you not be impressed with this:

All SunBrite Displays are lab-tested to withstand extreme temperatures:

  • – Veranda is -24° to 104°F
  • – Signature is -24° to 122°F
  • – Pro is -40° to 122°F

SunBrite Displays are water tested via 4.4 gallons per minute every 3 hours over 3 days… That’s 2700 GALLONS of water per display. NEVER has a display failed this test!

Not that we needed an excuse, but with March Madness at its mad finest, it was time to throw a party!  The mighty Florida Gators were playing in the Elite Eight after a stunning late night buzzer-beater in overtime to send the wily Wisconsin Badgers home in defeat.  It was a Saturday afternoon, the food was ordered and prepped, the bar was ready, and the weather was perfect.  To give you an idea, enjoy a couple photos of our afternoon of basketball, sunshine, eats and an amazing display!
Regional Finals – the game is about to begin
The Gators are still in it…
The gang enjoying the game
Watching outdoors is fun!
Sadly for me, the Gators did not make it to the Final Four that afternoon.  But they gave a great show, and everyone had a great time.  This was the first of the many soirees I will host, and my SunBrite Veranda will absolutely be front and center for them all!

Have you installed a SunBrite outdoor display and hosted great events with friends?  Tell me about them in the comments below!

Why I’m happy my outside TV died during Football Season

I couldn’t wait for my TV to die.  Crazy, right?  Read on and I’ll explain.

More than half the TVs installed in outdoor spaces are engineered for indoor use.  And I was like most people.  Why would I spend more on an outdoor rated display when I could get something for less than half the price?  If it dies I can run out and pick up a newer model and throw it up on the wall without much down time.  And when my first display died I did just that.  I found an old plasma in the house and hung it up outside.  Eventually, as expected, its performance began to decline.

Flag on the play!

What’s the black box in the corner of my screen?

“Die, you imperfect plasma, just DIE!” I muttered to myself in the fall.  Here’s a snapshot of its demise, notice the upper right hand corner image fade.  It was only a matter of time!

(Full disclosure, Brian Rhatigan, my coworker and display expert tells me this isn’t a typical symptom of aging displays, and probably has more to do with the source.  But that doesn’t work with my story.  Read his blog here.)

"Heather's Hut"

Living in paradise has its perks

Cut to earlier this month.  A recent Polar Vortex had 75% of the country experiencing below freezing temperatures.  I was in chilly, snowy Chicago (my hat is off to those of you who can handle that!) and I couldn’t wait to get home to my beloved South Florida, the 85°+ December weather and watching the Miami Dolphins claw and fight their way to their first winning season since 2008 in my outdoor football paradise.


Flag on the Play!

It’s a Saturday night prime-time Dolphins v. Jets showdown in New York.  December football in-conference rivalry at its finest!  The bevvies were ice cold, the sausage dip was made, and the propane tank was full.  I was ready!  But I was unprepared for a dead display.  It was a football fail, to put it mildly.  Yes, I’d wished ill-will upon my clunky old plasma, but the timing was terrible!  I’d wanted to brag to my northern neighbors!  (Karma much?)  We watched the Dolphins trounce the Jets, 34-13 in the living room on the couch.  Booooo!

Can this be corrected in the second half?

Earlier this fall SunBrite TV introduced their new Veranda Series 4K UHD outdoor displays for full-shade outdoor spaces.  These beauties are up to 30% brighter than typical indoor TVs, and they’re weather proof!  And while that was always a major selling point for buying an outdoor display for outside, now… NOW they’re affordable!


My Spirit Reptile

If there’s such a thing as a spirit animal, mine is an iguana.  (OK, spirit reptile).  Not glamorous, cuddly or even cute.  What we have in common, according to Wikipedia is that we thrive only in temperatures between 79-95°F.  This makes South Florida the perfect place for me to live.  And ideal for outdoor winter TV watching.


You can’t keep a true Dolphins fan down for long.  My Veranda is on a truck headed to South Florida.  Just in time for college bowl games and the NFL playoffs… I’m holding out hope that my Dolphins are still standing by mid-January!  Stay tuned for Part II, as I turn my Football Fail into Veranda Victory!

Do you have an outdoor setup you LOVE?  Share a picture in the comments, I’d love to see what you’ve got!


Digital Signage – Any Which Way

October finished up the last of the Almo Pro AV E4 AV Tours for 2016, the last of which was in Dallas, TX.

One of the many things to do is walk through the Exhibit Hall, where all of Almo’s manufacturer partners showcase their latest and greatest products…

I really “flipped” over the all-new R Series product displayed by Sharp at our Dallas Show.

PN-R series

This beauty will come in a 42”, 49” and 55” display, and with the extreme tilt capabilities opens up new mounting possibilities that gives more flexibility than ever before to digital signage installations.  My imagination went wild.  Not only can this series be mounted in portrait or landscape mode, imagine the 42” display mounted face up on a table in a sleek apparel shop, or the 55” face down from the ceiling in a planetarium…

While I wouldn’t suggest mounting it on a floor surface that would be walked on, the design of these monitors is robust enough that they can be suspended from the four corners of the rear housing using wires.  I immediately envisioned a simple, elegant look for an office lobby, like an attorney’s office or accounting firm or a retail shop where information, daily specials or other content could be simply and beautifully displayed.

The ingenuity and creativity of our dealers and integrator customers is always impressive.  And I can’t wait to see what they come up with when they let loose with Sharp’s new PN-R Series!

Margaritaville + SunBriteTV + Blender = Fantastic

I just returned from a much needed vacation in Puerto Rico at the Wyndham Rio Mar resort. This property recently completed a $500M addition of Wyndham vacation condos in partnership with his royal beach-iness and head Parrot, Jimmy Buffet. The Margaritaville themed portion of the resort was impressive and had that cool Buffet laid-back vibe. As a marketer, I’m amazed at how this artist, who hasn’t had a record on the charts in the last couple of decades (save collaborations Zac Brown and Alan Jackson), has managed to become a global brand commanding licensing agreements from everything to restaurants, merchandising and now resorts.

The outdoor cabana with swim up pool was the centerpieces of the resort, appropriately named Margaritaville. You even got your own mondo margarita cup shaped like, you guessed it, a blender!







Hanging above the bar was a gorgeous installation of SunBriteTV’s, made to withstand the heat, humidity, wind and sand rolling off the beach just a few feet away. Trust me when I say it’s humid down there and the TV’s looked fantastic. Note that the clock on the wall is always on 5 o’clock.


Fast forward a couple of evenings and we go to a beautiful restaurant that was completely open to the elements with a view to die for overlooking the ocean. We got there right before the sunset and ordered the sangria. I look over to my shoulder and there it is…the ultimate no-no in outdoor installations.  It was Visio (cue the scary organ music!)


AND to top it off, it was plugged into a cheap power strip, totally exposed OVER AN ICE MACHINE! (Cue even scarier organ music) Can you say electrical fire/accident waiting to happen? Somebody call OSHA!!!!

We just had training from the very smart folks at SunBriteTV who reiterated that there are very real safety concerns with putting consumer TV’s outside. Forget about there being no warranty, or that the picture will be terrible in a matter of months, or that you can’t view those TV’s in direct sunlight. If you are working with a restaurant owner who wants to go on the cheap with his outdoor TV’s, tell him to call his insurance company and get a rider for electrocution for TV’s that aren’t UL certified for outdoor use. Maybe that will get him thinking. Business owners need peace of mind that their customers will be safe and happy. Use SunBriteTV and you can chill and go to your happy place – kind of like this…


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