The Human Brain: Hardwired for Motion



We human beings are a brainy bunch. Our brain is the largest relative to body size among all other vertebrates. The cerebral cortex is greatly enlarged in humans and is the seat of complex thought. But in today’s modern world, it’s easy to forget that the brain has been key to our continued existence. 

iStock-497487570_web_thumb.jpg“The brain . . . is designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment and to do so in nearly constant motion (to keep you alive long enough to pass your genes on). We were not the strongest on the planet, but we developed the strongest brains, the key to our survival,” says this article on how the brain works.

One important element of that survival is the way in which our brains evaluate movement. Our bias towards motion has its roots in the crucial fight or flight response and is still important now. Simply put, when something moves, we are hardwired to notice and perceive it as a potential threat, so we pay close attention to it.

This is true even today, when such threats have shifted from the sabre tooth tiger to modern stresses such as traffic – or even situations that don’t involve movement, such as a tense conversation with your boss or disagreement with your spouse. The reaction is still the same: we note the threat and we respond to it, both physically and emotionally.

There are several corollaries to that biological imperative, according to this research paper on unexpected changes in direction:

• The direction of movement also is significant: motion towards you suggests a threat, while motion away may or may not spell trouble.

• When something changes direction, its intentions for good or evil may also have changed, so we notice it.

• Speed and acceleration have a similar impact. Faster movement can increase your perception of a threat, so it’s more noticeable. Changes in speed also grab attention, especially when they happen closer to you.

• In another connection to our biological roots, when we notice something move, we pause and watch it. “One of the survival strategies that humans and many other mammals developed was to freeze in the face of danger. Any movement could possibly attract the attention of a predator, which would invariably reduce their chances of survival,” according to this article .

In addition to minimizing the chances of early man becoming dinner, this freeze response “also allowed our ancestors to assess the situation fully and choose the best course of action.”

So, to summarize, movement attracts attention and causes us to pause and assess its relevance to us, while lack of motion does the opposite. Is there any wonder why the motion of digital signage garners 400% more eyeballs than traditional signage (Intel )?

The punchy motion we use in creating digital signage, particularly at the beginning of messages, is designed to take advantage of the impact movement has on us. How messages move on and off screen, whether they speed up or slow down, the addition of video: all play off our instinct to attend to movement, including standing still and watching what captures our attention. Motion creates a sense of urgency – in this case, not to run from a predator, but to walk into a store and buy.

So, a static sign is much less likely to catch our attention; to the modern shopper, it simply becomes part of the environment, like wallpaper.  Is it time to swap out static for digital signage solutions? Only if you’d like a response from your customers.

For more specifics on movement and its role in our work, check out our previous blog, On the Move: Using Motion Design to Create Compelling Digital Signage .

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The Color Connection


Human beings prefer our lives to be colorful – literally. As The Ultimate Guide to Using Color Psychology in Marketing says:

“Color is an essential tool because it has an impact on how we think and behave. Color directs our eye where to look, what to do, and how to interpret something. It puts content into context. It helps us decide what’s important and what’s not.”

Understanding how we react to color is, not surprisingly, critical to design. But it may interest you to learn that there appears to be an evolutionary component to our color preferences, which is even more compelling when it comes to how color affects our buying decisions.


First, one general note about our biology: we are visual beings. “Your brain is really one big organ for making sense of the world, and it does that almost entirely through vision. Yes, we smell, taste, touch, hear and such . . . but seeing is our primary sense, by a long distance. About 20% of your brain is there purely for vision,” says neuroscientist Andrew Tate .

When it comes to visual design, infographic creators Venngage reinforce that point. “People are visually oriented: 90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual, presentations with visuals are 43% more persuasive, and 65% of us are visual learners. In fact, 93% of all communication is nonverbal. Visuals attract our attention, enhance our emotions, and affect our attitude.”

Along with movement , color is a key element of what attracts us visually. And as is true with the way we react to motion, evolution also may play a role in our color preferences. Tate cites a 2010 study from the University of California at Berkeley that looked at our color likes and dislikes. Back when we started to evolve, for example, browns and yellows were colors we wanted to avoid when foraging for food, as they indicated spoilage.

Today, when people are surveyed about the colors they like, brown and yellow aren’t high on the list, so we still may have an unconscious bias towards them – a holdover from our earliest days. However, Tate says, “Because our brains are starting to catch up with the fact that we do not have to go out looking for food anymore, this phenomenon is starting to shift so that we can think that good colors are ones that we have a personal preference for, even if that is brown.

Along those lines, when it comes to color, interpretations are somewhat subjective. They vary from one culture to another, though are largely consistent within them. For example, western minds such as ours most likely would interpret the following four common colors as follows, according to one source :

  • Red: powerful, dynamic, passionate.
  • Orange: energizing, friendly, fun.
  • Green: balanced, peaceful, healthy.
  • Blue: reliable, trustworthy, soothing.

However, red also can signal danger and anger to us, and blue can seem cold and unfriendly when overused. The trick is understanding the potential connotations of color and using it wisely. For example, red might be an accent, rather than the main color, in a design if the creator wants to avoid it being perceived in a negative way.

Color interpretations also can be influenced by personal experience, both positive and negative. “The conclusion is that color preferences derive from our preference for the objects that typically have these colors,” says a Psychology Today blog about the same Berkeley research Tate references. “Everyone has a somewhat different life experience, and so as people increasingly experience pleasure in something they bought in a particular color, they will tend to choose similar objects in the future with the same color.”

In other words, if you love green apples and your favorite shirt is green, you’ll be drawn to the color green in general and are more likely to paint a wall that color.

Why is understanding color preferences (and other elements of color theory we haven’t mentioned here) critical to marketers of all types? Because of the enormous impact color has on what we’re attracted to and what we buy.

Almost 93 percent of people say that the visual dimension is the most influential factor in a purchasing decision. “Studies suggest that people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of initial viewing [and] . . . up to 90% of that assessment is based on color alone,” this guide to customer psychology explains.

Of course, in our work, we’re most often presented with brand standards that dictate the colors we use. However, there’s usually room for creative choices that fall within the guidelines, and we can apply our knowledge of color and color preferences to our digital signage designs. But the importance of color to consumers means that marketers need more than a working knowledge of color theory. Many could benefit from taking a deeper dive into the topic to make better choices about logo designs and product colors. Your bottom line might depend on it.

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Tips From DSaaS Experts



Chances are, you already have some guidelines that come to mind when designing creative content: stay away from red, ensure your content is engaging, know your audience, etcetera, etcetera. But what would the experts say are the non-negotiables when creating effective content specific to digital signage?

Is it the layout of the messages?


Is it the color scheme or clever wording?

Could be.

How about the eye catching branded content that really draws the viewer’s attention?

You’re getting there.

We sat down with one of our experts to discuss some of the secrets of the trade. Here’s the skinny, it is more involved than just using a special layout or clever wording. To create successful digital signage, here are 5 things to think about before booting up the screen.

1. Define your goals, scope and resources: What good is a message without a strategy? In our opinion, the strategy is the pinnacle of all digital signage projects. So where do you start?

Here are some questions to think through when kicking off your digital signage solution:

1. What are your overall business goals?
2. What are your goals specific to the Digital Signage as a Service (DSaaSproject?
3. Do these specific goals align with your overall business goals?

The answers to these questions are your backbone. As you begin to hammer out the scope of your project, always come back to these answers to stay on target.
Additionally, it is also important to understand the budget, resources, and timing it will take to execute on this job. For easy prioritization, determine the most important aspects of the project. Maybe your scope is key, but timing is not a huge issue. Modify your project so that you can execute to the scope you desire but flex a bit on the timing. As these key elements become defined, it is important they work together to make a realistic scope and deadline that will later back up to your project goals. This way, your digital signage project won’t become delayed or known as the “dreaded never-ending, budget-spiraling project from the depths of…” well, you see where we’re going with that one.

2. Define what success looks like: It is imperative to understand how this project will be successful. How can you determine success if you haven’t defined what success means to you? It’s simple.

Here are some questions to think through.

1. What’s your end goal?
2. How can this be measured ?
3. What measurements would be attainable but challenging?
4. Do these measurements line back up with your defined goal(s) ?

There are different ideas of what being successful actually means, so it is crucial to determine and align here with the stakeholders. Without the definition of success, it’s difficult to get you where you want to be.

3. Brainstorm with key stakeholders

Gaining “buy-in” from your stakeholders is imperative as you kick off this – potentially – new initiative. With their support, alignment, and * ahem * money, you want to be sure you can prove the value in your digital signage solution. As you modify and measure, you can make optimizations to increase your solution’s effectiveness.

4. Ensure all your messages align to your brand values, the project and the environment

To tie it all together, we believe it is crucial to ensure that all of your messages align. The media you create must have synergy with your brand messaging. Take a look at the environment you will be placing your signage, are you duplicating any promotions or sending any conflicting information? Additionally, think through your other strategies. Are you missing any key information your company would like to push? Only once you are confident on the content messaging can you begin to develop the motion graphics.

5. Ensure your brand has been set

How could you expect to align your digital signage to your brand if your brand doesn’t have a clear voice, look, and feel? In the eyes of the experts, this is an absolute must. Knowing and defining the character of your brand is critical in helping you create effective digital signage. When your brand is clearly outlined, and your digital signage follows suit, your brand will transcend in the digital and live spaces. Without this component, you and your digital signage will become obsolete, potentially creating a negative effect.

So how do these tips help lead you and your business to success? Well, with aligned messages, full support, and consistent branding you know you are on the right track.

In the eyes of the experts, your overall strategy can be a tough cookie to crack. When you spend time on strategy and setting goals , you can track and report the success . Based on benchmarks, you can make adjustments to your signage which will only increase your message’s effectiveness. Now that you’ve got some tools in your belt, go and dream big. Using these expert tips, we hope your c-suite is beyond impressed.

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