Electronic digital signage blends into historic Notre Dame landscape

Modern Technology, Traditional Look

The University of Notre Dame was ready to update its signage in front of its Founders Wall, which houses a collection of donor-recognition memorabilia. In doing so, Notre Dame wanted to install an electronic digital signage system to help visitors find specific placements of prominent donors on the Founders Wall as well as other donor recognition sites on campus, so it contacted Burkhart Advertising, a regional custom sign shop in South Bend, Ind., to create the display, says Ryan Kring, senior account executive for Burkhart Advertising. 

“Behind our freestanding interactive kiosk is a radius wall that has a list of over 200 prominent donors throughout the history of Notre Dame,” Kring says. “So to highlight that wall, they wanted something unique at the entrance of this quiet area, where people can look up and see the names of donors or find donors they know, like their aunt or uncle.”

The kiosk, which was manufactured by Mosaic Kiosk Solutions, is a new type of signage for Notre Dame, Kring says. Notre Dame’s campus mostly has a traditional look to it with few electronic elements. In fact, there is even little signage around the campus. Most of Notre Dame’s architecture uses natural stone and materials, and any correlating signage is typically sandblasted or veneered into the substrates for a subtle look. 

“There’s not a lot of technology on campus,” Kring says. “Even the football stadium doesn’t have a replay video. This is one of the first-ever freestanding pieces of electronics on campus in the whole history of Notre Dame, so for them to go out and look at this is a big step for them.”

To keep in line with Notre Dame’s traditional look, Kring and his team created a special sleeve that decorated the kiosk. The sleeve was fabricated out of thick, high-grade aluminum that could withstand the outdoor conditions, and the backer panel was painted to create a powder-like finish. 

Near Founders Wall is the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, featuring an angular design. To complement the building, the kiosk was topped with a triangular unit. The area by Founders Wall and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center also uses a large amount of natural stone, and similar colors were integrated into the kiosk for a cohesive look. 

“There’s not a lot of flash to the backer panel, but it really takes something that’s very modern looking and gives it a real traditional feel because of how we custom made that sleeve around the kiosk,” Kring says. “It really does fit the location of the Founders Wall and the DeBartolo Center.”

The kiosk sleeve was also designed with the weather in mind, Kring adds. In South Bend, the weather can get as low as negative 20 degrees during the winter and more than 100 degrees in the summer. With that type of variation, the kiosk must withstand drastic weather conditions, prompting Kring and his team to construct a built-in air conditioner for the sleeve. 

One of the biggest challenges, Kring says, was finding the right piece of technology. There are many electronic kiosk manufacturers, which gave Burkhart Advertising plenty of options, but the unit needed to have certain specifications for the job. Deciding on the appropriate kiosk took asking the right questions to make sure it fit Notre Dame’s specific needs. 

“We needed to find one that fit our climate, and it needed to be able to be altered to support a unique architectural backer and custom panel made to fit it without interrupting the service,” Kring says. “That was probably the hardest part.” 

The kiosk is also connected to Google Analytics, allowing Notre Dame to measure how many visitors touch the screen during a set period of time. How long visitors stayed on a screen and how many screens the average person touched can be measured, as well, which helps Notre Dame see the effectiveness of the kiosk. 

“To be able to report that back to the client is a big deal, because if you don’t have that you’re just putting up this kiosk and hoping people touch it,” Kring says. “It will be a selling point for Notre Dame to continue on with this type of signage at other locations because there will be tangible evidence that people are using it, and it’s a hit. The first week we had about 600 visitors, and that’s quite a bit. The average person stayed on it for a minute and 45 seconds, and most people got through all the screens.”

Since the kiosk has been installed, it continues to be seen as a successful signage unit, Kring says. Balancing the traditional elements with the modern technology was difficult, but the system achieves just that.

“We’ve had nothing but compliments on it,” Kring says. “It’s a hard project because you have something so traditional, but you’re bringing in something so modern, so it took a long time to get a good marriage out of it, but we’re proud of it.”