Designing for digital signs is a tricky affair. It needs to be eye-popping, but legible. It has to be consistently updated, but follow your brand's guidelines. It has to have variety, but not fail to convey its information to the audience. But content for signage shouldn't be limited to just the realm of designers and artists.

Here are a few tips to help you get started designing the content for your digital signage. With some practice and a little hard work, you can create the perfect sign for your needs.

Planning makes perfect
Before pen meets paper – or in this case, cursor meets canvas – you're going to want to know what's going to go onto the signs. Understand the purpose of the sign – maybe a menu board, or a community bulletin, or an advertisement for your brand. Content is king. And final copy isn't necessary, but knowing the text that'll go on the sign in broad strokes such as its type and word count can make a big difference when planning out the design that needs to work with the text.

Location, location, location
It's important to maximize the readability of your signs. Even if it isn't showing text, a sign with imagery that's poorly-scaled or too noisy can fail to make its point, especially at long distances. From far away, a big block of text devolves into scribble. And if the audience is going to just be standing around with nothing to watch but the sign, a loud animation on a short, continuous loop will get aggravating quickly.

HigherEd Tech Decisions emphasized the importance of knowing the distance between the screen and the viewer's eyes: Is it far away, or close up, or placed above eye level? All of these affect the font size and design of your sign, and so does how long a viewer is meant to look at it, the source said.

If a viewer is just walking past and only giving the sign one or two seconds of attention, aim for the fewest words that can get a point across. Conversely, a viewer who spends 10 seconds or longer will benefit from more information on the sign, according to the post.

Utilize grids, understand geometry
Utilize a grid when planning your sign. Foundational for art as much as they are for successful Web design, grids provide the bedrock for a layout and help the viewer better understand information, Creative Bloq said. A good layout leads the eye across a sign, and proportions are able to give subtle cues about the importance and context of the information. 

Grids can help balance a design with a lot of elements.Grids can help balance a design with a lot of elements.

Notice the photo above. See how the rocks are positioned about one – third of the way into the image, and the horizon is one – third away from the bottom of the image? The "rule of thirds" is a very simple style of grid that's aesthetically pleasing and doesn't clutter the image.

Placing text blocks, images, and widgets into a grid helps you understand how the various elements of a design will interact with each other. Try different layouts to better present the information, and using multiple grid layouts for multiple slides, if your signage strategy will be using that.

Competent content cuts cruft
Author Antoine de Saint-Exupery in his memoir Wind Sand and Stars that "perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away." It's a cliche among designers, but it holds true. Digital signs have only so much room to make an impression, so you must ensure that the content going on the sign is as focused and impactful as possible.

The University of British Columbia emphasizes simplicity in its guidelines for designing content on digital signage. The rules include keeping extraneous text to a minimum and restricting important text from the outer quarter of the screen, to keep the eye from having to stretch around a sign.

Content design for digital signage follows many of the same principles as much of graphic design. Keeping in mind the environment a sign will be in and designing to best fit that will make for legible and successful signage.