Learning from the Great Cathedrals of Europe—Delivering Relevant Content

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Jun 24 2013, Posted by InReality

Producing and delivering relevant media content for in-store digital experiences can be an elusive and complicated endeavor. But the reality is, this is the very thing that will make the experience either a success or just another screen stuck in the corner, to which no one pays attention. Sadly, any trip to your local mall or large retailer will reveal many screens that fall into the latter category.


Many times, the pre-deployment focus is on the hardware, installation, networking and a host of other critical issues that, while important, do not address the real reason for building the system. What is most important is a keen understanding of what the viewer might want or need and the ability to deliver it in a clear and simple manner. This requires being very granular in your focus about how viewers will use your system.

A Different Perspective

Recently, I had an opportunity to learn more about the complicated architecture and engineering feats that made the gothic cathedrals of Europe possible. PBS has a great piece about it that can be found here.

The magnificent cathedrals of Chartes, Beauvais and other European cities are massive structures of stone and glass that revolutionized building and introduced the public to an amazing media experience.

If we subscribe to the notion that dynamic multimedia experiences are designed to educate, inform, entertain, influence and inspire, then these structures had that in spades.

Stories Written in Light

These structures are so impressive because of the huge stained glass windows that blend so beautifully into the surrounding structure. These massive windows tell stories and inspire reflection because they are so integrated into the overall experience.

When they were built, few people could read or write, and these windows became the multimedia stories of their day … stories written in light, stories that were connected to a spiritual cause.

The symmetry, size and scope of the message and how it’s delivered; the ways that one story leads to another is the inspiration for our modern day dilemma—how to deliver compelling experiences to our viewers.

For example, the builders used very specific geometry to ensure that the stories followed each other in a very specific order and no doubt labored for many weeks or even months to get it just right.

They also used color in very interesting ways, often driven by the arc of the sun and orientation of the building. This allowed them to highlight certain stories at various parts of the day.

Create Amazing Experiences, Slow Down … Get it Right.

The fascinating takeaway is the reverence with which they viewed this new ability to tell these stories in light and the care that they took to ensure that the experience was truly amazing. The time it took to build these structures was really not that important, the real issue was having a deliberate strategy for creating the experience and executing it to perfection.

When creating content for digital experiences, our challenge should always be to know as much about our audience as possible and carefully consider the best ways to communicate. Consider grouping techniques that combine key phrases and content together. Repeating relevant content or phrases is not a bad thing.

Utilize colors that support your brand identity and can stand alone as a story element.

Finally, use contrast to your advantage, it will help in making certain elements stand out.

The bottom line is to take your time, really consider your audience and take the challenge to get it right.

This article was originally published on
Image Credit: CC Lynette Chea

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