The art of making people smile through digital placemaking

Your building is an opportunity to delight and captivate! This week, we reflect on the power of digital placemaking strategies – and the value of touchless wayfinding.

Many precinct managers don’t realise how easy it is to turn high-traffic areas into a platform for their brand values and stories. Here are a few examples…

Digital placemaking strategies at UTS

Last year, we developed a digital placemaking strategy for UTS Central – a landmark on Broadway, Sydney. Designed by FJMT with original podium design by Lacoste+Stevenson with DJRD, it was our job to identify areas that are ideal for celebrating the UTS brand voice as part of an overarching digital placemaking strategy.

We singled out the corner of Harris and Broadway as a prime location thanks to the building’s porous glass façade. Huge screens now display bold, dynamic graphics, which catch the eye of passers-by outside. It’s such a vibrant, constantly-evolving way of communicating the university’s leadership and global impact.

We also developed a digital strategy for the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, designed by Gehry Partners. To bring the site’s history to life, we suggested adding smart tags to signs in specific locations. We wanted students to discover archaeological finds and historic stories via their smartphones as they’re navigating the building.

The rise of touchless wayfinding and digital check-ins

Contactless check-in systems and reception desks are suddenly vital in the coronavirus era. A few years ago, while working with Telstra and KWM, we recommended touchless check-in stations and printable access cards. Meeting room directions would be sent directly to smartphones and digital screens. The goal was to prepare and inform visitors before they arrive. Then welcome, immerse and engage them during their visit; and convert them into brand advocates using a digital concierge system.

We also looked at circulation paths and traffic flow to identify opportunities for digital placemaking. At Telstra, the lobby is ideal for themed, artistic displays. The George Street entrance is highly visible and perfect for promoting Telstra’s partnerships and cultural initiatives.

Things to consider

Over the years, we’ve built digital overlays into all kinds of environments. We’ve learned:

• Digital activations can be an excellent way of taking visitors on a journey through time. They might discover a QR code on a sign, scan it, and find out about the history and significance of your site – all from their mobile phones.
•  You may be able to use your organisation’s existing apps, enhanced with geolocation-based technology and smart tags, to activate content at specific points in people’s journeys.
• Ask your wayfinding designers to identify opportunities for ‘experience touchpoints’. This includes everything from your website and app to the digital screens and directories displayed in your lobby – all vital touchpoints in your customer’s journey.
• When investing in LED screens, you’ll need a content strategy with passive, active, event and brand modes.
• In passive mode, you might use data feeds to generate abstract graphics. The branding can be very subliminal and subtle. In active mode, you might create visuals that detect and respond to movement using motion sensors. In brand mode, try animating your brand or logo; while in event mode, you can promote events, celebrate company achievements or welcome new clients.

It can take years for digital engagement strategies to come to fruition as most precincts are completed slowly over time. We’re delighted to see so many of our ideas coming to life now, years after we first conceived them.

If you don’t have a digital placemaking strategy in place, you could be missing an opportunity to delight and engage your customers – and make them smile along the way.

Above: Nexen UniverCITY’s ‘Infinity Wall‘ in Seoul, by d’strict. Below, clockwise from top left: A vibrant digital installation at UTS Central; two digital placemaking strategies by BrandCulture.