Michigan State University
Controller's Office

Administration Bldg
426 Auditorium Rd, Rm 305
East Lansing, MI 48824
517 355-5020

SECTION 291: Digital Signage Guideline

Last updated: February 4, 2019

I. Purpose

The purpose of this guideline is to create a consistent user experience across all digital signs on campus, to ensure that they meet accessibility and safety standards, and to display appropriate and relevant content. Digital signs are defined as any permanently mounted digital screen that is displayed in a shared space with the primary purpose of disseminating general information to multiple people. This guideline is needed for the following reasons:

  1. To ensure campus alerts display on all digital signs
  2. That digital signs meet accessibility policy
  3. Make sure that content stays up-to-date
  4. To prevent the display of prohibited content
  5. Maintain a consistent brand
  6. Create a consistent user experience
  7. Improve efficiency through collaboration and reducing redundancy
  8. Encourage energy reduction and sustainability

II. Definitions

Campus-wide - all of Michigan State University, East Lansing campus

Closed system - one in which the information can only be accessed through the digital sign. An example would be an ATM machine. If it is not a closed system then it is an open system.

Digital signage - any permanently mounted digital screen that is displayed in a shared space with the primary purpose of disseminating general information to multiple people.

Interactive signage - a digital sign that allows the user to control the interface, whether through touch, voice, or any type of input device.

Limited access - areas not commonly accessed, unless for a specific purpose.

Local - refers to a specific audience, such as a unit, department, or building.

Non-interactive signage - a digital sign that cannot be controlled by a user.

Open system - one in which the information is available through some other pathway, such as the internet. If it is not an open system, it is a closed system.

Public access - all common areas in a building or permanent structure.

Restricted access - spaces that cannot be accessed by the general public.

Variable Message Signs (VMS) - for the purposes of this document, VMS is synonymous with digital signage. Digital signs are referred to as variable message signs by Section 508 of the ADA Accessibility guidelines.

III. Scope of Guideline

This guideline applies to all interactive and non-interactive digital signage on Michigan State University East Lansing campus. Digital signs that are excluded from this guideline include menu boards, artwork, scoreboards, televisions, video projectors and system monitors.

IV. Requirements

In addition to the requirements outlined in this guideline, all digital signs must adhere to the following MSU and federal guidelines:

  1. Acceptable Use Policy for MSU Information Technology Resources
  2. MSU Policy for Access to Facility Information and Critical Data
  3. ADA Section 508 Standards for Electronic and Information Technology
  4. MSU Brand Standards
  1. Signage Access Types

    Digital signage on campus is divided into three types of access:

    1. Public access- public access includes all common areas in a building or permanent structure. This would include building entrances and lobbies, major hallways, and shared spaces. Anything that does not fall under limited or restricted access falls under public access.
    2. Limited access- limited access applies to areas not commonly accessed by the general public unless for a specific purpose. For example, the lobby of a departmental office would be a limited access space, but the main hallway of the office’s building would most likely be classified as public access.
    3. Restricted access- restricted access areas are the spaces that cannot be accessed by the general public.

    Contact MSU IT Technology AV/IT Integration at tech.msu.edu for assistance determining if a sign location is considered public, limited, or restricted access.

  2. Interactive Signage Content

    For each signage access type above (i.e. public, limited and restricted), there are required, recommended, and optional content for interactive digital signs.

    1. Required content - content, like alerts, directories, maps, that must be displayed on the signs. All current and future digital sign installations must display the required content included in table 1. If existing technology does not support showing the required content, software and/or hardware need to be updated.
    2. Recommended content - content not required but strongly encouraged to help promote a consistent user experience across campus.
    3. Optional content - content that is left up to the discretion of the owner to display.

    Table 1: Requirements for Displaying Digital Content, Based on Content Type and Classification of Access Areas identifies which content type is required, recommended, and optional for each interactive signage access type. Additional information for each content type is available under Content Types

    Table 1: Requirements for Displaying Digital Content, Based on Content Type and Classification of Access Areas

    Alerts Required Required Required
    Directory - campus-wide Required Recommended Optional
    Directory - local Optional Recommended Optional
    Events - campus-wide Required Optional Optional
    Events - local Optional Optional Optional
    Gallery Optional Optional Optional
    Map - campus-wide Required Recommended Optional
    Map - local Required Recommended Recommended
    News - Campus Recommended Optional Optional
    Social Media Optional Optional Optional
    Weather Optional Optional Optional
  3. Non-interactive Signage Content

    The only content required for non-interactive signage is the ability to display alerts. This is required for public, limited, and restricted access areas. See the Alerts section below for more information.

  4. Prohibited Locations

    Exterior digital signs are not permitted unless reviewed by the Campus Planning and Infrastructure Work Group (CIPWG) and approved by the university administration. All exterior digital sign requests should be presented to the CIPWG chairperson including:

    1. A rationale for the need and how it will support the university’s teaching, research, and outreach mission
    2. a plan graphic indicating the proposed location
    3. a three-dimensional sketch/graphic indicating the proposed sign’s design and its compliance with Communications and Brand Strategy’s (CABS) graphic standards.
  5. Prohibited Content

    Digital signs shall not include non-MSU related advertising, or any inappropriate or offensive material. All digital signs must follow the MSU Acceptable Use Policy for MSU Information Technology Resources. Access to sensitive information on digital signs, such as fire panel controls and detailed floor plans, must require a user login or passcode.

  6. Software and Hardware

    MSU does not require that any specific software, hardware, or vendors be used as long as they meet the requirements set forth in this guideline. Certain content types that may be required will necessitate specific technical capabilities. Please contact MSU IT Technology AV/IT Integration at tech.msu.edu for more information on current requirements.

    For recommended digital signage packages from a preferred vendor, please contact MSU IT Technology AV/IT Integration at tech.msu.edu for more information.

  7. Energy and Sustainability

    MSU’s Energy Transition Plan challenges the campus community to avoid wasteful energy practices. See energytransition.msu.edu/ for more information. The university also has an aggressive plan to reduce waste sustainability.msu.edu. To reach these goals, faculty, staff, and students are requested to make thoughtful decisions about how resources are used. Please do the following when making a plan to include digital signage:

    1. Use digital signage only when appropriate – While digital signs have many benefits and can reduce the need for other resources, one major disadvantage is increased energy use. A typical digital signage installation running 24/7 can use as much energy as three full-sized refrigerators. Are there more sustainable ways to reach the target audience? Consider collaborating with other departments to reduce the need for multiple displays.
    2. Choose energy efficient equipment - Digital signage components that earn the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR rating are about 20% more energy efficient that conventional models. Displays using LED backlighting are 10-30% more efficient than other technologies. Please see energystar.gov/products/certified-products/detail/displays.
    3. Locate digital signage away from thermostats – Most digital signage components produce significant amounts of heat. This excess heat can provide inaccurate information to nearby thermostats and sensors and lead to imbalances in heating, ventilation and cooling systems.
    4. Use power management features - While some displays may need to run 24 hours a day, others may only be required during business hours. ENERGY STAR qualified digital signage displays offer a sleep or standby mode to reduce power consumption during periods of inactivity. When enabled these features can reduce power consumption by as much as 90%. Other components, such as media players or computers can be scheduled to turn off when the space is unoccupied.
    5. Reduce screen brightness - Reducing the default brightness of the monitor or display to the specific needs of the space can result in a 15% reduction in power consumption. The Automatic Brightness Control (ABC) feature available on some display models automatically adjusts a display’s brightness to ambient lighting conditions. Dimming features, which allow the LED backlight output to be manually reduced, not only save energy but also increase the life of the display.
    6. Minimize environmental impact - Each of the major life-cycle stages of digital signage components: materials, manufacturing, use, maintenance, and final disposal, can have a significant impact on the environment. Choose durable equipment that is appropriate for the intended use and look for products that are free of hazardous materials such as mercury.
  8. Accessibility

    As digital sign usage on our campus increases, we must be mindful of accessibility issues and challenges. Digital signs may present challenges for individuals with physical disabilities. However, innovative technology may provide solutions to many of these challenges. These guidelines will not only help individuals with disabilities but will also help all users.

    Please be mindful that MSU has implemented a Web Accessibility Policy which will likely have implications on technologies used to provide signage on campus. MSU has numerous helpful resources and links for employees to use in complying with the guideline, all of which can be found at webaccess.msu.edu.

    MSU is also required to follow the law including the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act in all areas of the institution, including providing signage. If you have any questions about the guideline, or the law, in general, please contact the ADA Coordinator in the Office for Inclusion, 517-353-3922, inclusion.msu.edu.

    1. Open and Closed Content Systems

      Digital signs can be either open or closed systems. Whether a system is open or closed affects the implementation of accessibility guidelines. The preferred method of designers is to make digital signage content open.

      To make a digital sign’s content open, the sign should present content from a centrally located website that is maintained and updated. This website will provide alternate access for individuals using smart phones or computers. This website must be compliant with the University’s Web Accessibility Policy. To assist users in navigating to this web URL we suggest the following three methods:

      1. Display the web URL (web address) on the digital sign. If we think of the sign as a web browser, then the URL would be displayed in the address bar. It is also acceptable to display the URL next to the sign.
      2. Provide a QR code that can be displayed on the sign or near it.
      3. Install a Bluetooth beacon. This emerging technology, known in the Apple world as iBeacons, transmits a low-energy signal that is detectable via smart phones, iPod and other devices. This beacon will help direct the passerby to the web URL featuring information on the sign. This is especially of value to blind users who may not know that the sign is nearby.
      4. A Bluetooth beacon project is underway at the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. Please contact them for further information.

      If a digital sign displays content that is not available through alternative access, it must provide an accessible user interface. Contact MSU IT Technology AV/IT Integration for more information on how to make closed-system signs accessible and for additional resources on accessibility and digital signs.

  9. Branding

    All digital signs should include proper representation of the Michigan State University brand through consistent and appropriate use of logos and marks. MSU brand standards, including acceptable methods for identifying colleges and units may be found at brand.msu.edu.

  10. User Interface

    The tabs/buttons for interactive digital signs should have the following order and labels:

    1. Map - Campus
    2. Map - Local
    3. Directory - Campus
    4. Directory - Local
    5. Events - Campus
    6. Events - Local
    7. News - Campus
    8. Social Media
    9. Weather
    10. Gallery
    11. Additional tabs/buttons at the bottom

    See Accessibility section for additional requirements on user interface controls.

  11. Registration

    Digital sign owners are required to register all their digital signs with MSU IT Technology AV/IT Integration. Registering digital signs makes it possible to communicate digital signage related information and content updates to the various owners.

V. Content Types

  1. Alerts

    All digital signs on campus must show the MSU Police alert. If currently installed hardware/software does not permit showing alerts, the software/hardware should be updated to allow the showing of alerts as soon as reasonably possible.

    MSU Police will supply the website for an emergency RSS feed to be displayed. Systems should be programmed to search and pull information from this RSS feed every 5 minutes. The system will display all information from the RSS feed to include date and time of message. The system will also display any additional messages (updates) at the same time as the original message. Messages will have an expiration time set by sender after which the screens will return to normal functions. The emergency message will be programmed to take over the full screen.

    All alert messages include locations of where to find more information related to the alert/update messages.

  2. Map
    1. Local

      A local map (i.e. floor plans) should be displayable on all interactive digital signs in public access areas and are recommended in limited and restricted access locations. A local map on non-interactive signs are optional in all locations.

      All digital signage must follow the MSU Policy for Access to Facility Information and Critical Data. This policy addresses distribution of facility information, including floorplans. Visit wayfinding.msu.edu for more information on how to directly access floor plans designed specifically for digital signage.

    2. Campus-wide

      All interactive digital signage in public areas should have a campus-wide map. In limited access areas, a campus map is strongly recommended. A campus map is optional in restricted areas. In most cases, the interactive digital signs should use the official web-based interactive campus map, when available, that has been designed for use with digital signs on campus. Showing a campus map is optional for non-interactive signs in all locations.

      If it is not possible to use the web-based map, then use the official campus map in PDF form. The sign should link to the PDF map directly, if possible, or download it at least on a bi-annual basis. Upon updating the equipment so that it is capable of displaying web-based content, switch the sign from using the PDF form to the web-based interactive campus map.

      For information on software and hardware requirements to display the web-based map, how to integrate it, and choosing the correct campus map, Contact wayfinding.msu.edu for more information.

VI. Directory

Provide campus-wide directory information on all interactive digital signs in public access areas. This practice is recommended in limited access areas and optional in restricted locations. Additional local directory information is recommended in limited access areas and optional in public and restricted areas. Showing directory information on non-interactive digital signs is optional in all areas.

VII. Events

Interactive digital signs should show important campus-wide events. No specific campus-wide events are required, but events that are current and of a broad appeal are encouraged in public spaces. Showing local events in public locations is optional. In limited access and restricted locations, showing campus-wide and local events are both optional. Showing events is optional in all locations for non-interactive digital signs.

VIII. Optional Content Types

Galleries, Campus News, Social Media, Weather and other content types are not required for any digital sign. However, if they are included they must follow the guidelines of this policy. For more information on integrating optional content types and access to additional campus-wide data services for digital signage, Contact MSU IT Technology AV/IT Integration at tech.msu.edu for more information.