Communicating with Animated Infographics

in Graphic Analysis

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It’s not surprising that the wildly popular infographic genre is producing a surge in animated infographics. As hypnotizing as moving pictures are, it’s good to step back and analyze the medium so we can understand the most effective approaches for communicating through it.

Just like static infographics, the animated versions convey information, data and statistics through a blend of words and images. The advantage, of course, is that infographic videos have the added dimensions of motion and an audio track, allowing for music, voiceovers and sound effects. Let’s look at some examples. Please Note: The videos  were chosen for their visual and auditory qualities, rather than their views or promotional messages.

Depicting Statistics

One of the most common uses of infographic videos is to visualize statistics to make them more palatable and meaningful. Three ways to accomplish this are through the use of simple representational graphics, using a storyline and embedding the numbers in a recorded video through post-production work.

1. USING ICONIC GRAPHICS

In the Electronic Medical Records video below, GE Healthcare is promoting the need to establish one EMR standard. They use iconic graphics to depict key concepts, which are often abstract. For example, a tape measure shows the size of the problem, diagonally crossed lines represent red tape and an EMR system is conveyed by a simple dashboard. Using representations from the physical world can help viewers understand important ideas. In addition, notice how this video takes full advantage of the audio track by interjecting sardonic humor—a tone that adds to the absurdity of the current medical record mess in the US.

Electronic Medical Records by GE Healthcare

2. USING A STORYLINE
Another compelling way to make data meaningful is to embed it in a storyline. People are naturally drawn to stories, making it easier to sustain their attention. A narrative also gives the data the context it needs to promote understanding.

In The Clock is Ticking on Long Island video below, the statistics support the dramatic story of a regional community that is on a downward spiral, both economically and environmentally. Although there is no voice over, the music provides the sense of impending doom as does the metaphorical symbol of the time bomb with a clock face ticking away.

The Clock is Ticking on Long Island by Duarte Design

3. POST-PRODUCTION ANIMATION
Then there’s the post-production infographic video, where animated objects, text and infographics are added onto a previously recorded video. This approach provides a way to show data in a familiar physical environment, which is another way to provide meaning and value.

The video below promotes buying and eating local foods in Canada. Notice how the animators used the element of surprise by juxtaposing unexpected objects, like 3D bar graphs rising up from a set table, broccoli arranged into a forest and signs placed directly into food on the table.

Do you know where your food comes from? by the Real Food Movement

Animated Explanations

Another successful use of the animated information graphic is for explaining a process or procedure. Although technical animations have been around for a long time, modern versions use the visual language of videos, such as overlaying windows, novel transitions between segments, a popping soundtrack, lively pace and surprising sound effects. Often the concepts and ideas are pared down to the basics, as they should be when intended for the general public.

1. STOP-MOTION ANIMATION
In this brief explanation of Gmail Mobile, the purpose is to show how the mobile version of Gmail includes the same functionality and data as the desktop version. Using stop-motion animation—where objects appear to be moving on their own—is an excellent way to convey the idea that what’s on the desktop is moved to the mobile device. The upbeat parade soundtrack conveys the feeling that, by gosh, Gmail Mobile must be great.

Gmail Mobile by Jess3

2. ORGANIZING IN SEGMENTS
The Canal Isabel II video below explains Madrid’s water cycle process from collection to purification. Using quick frame changes with matching music, the animators create a speedy tempo that drives it forward. The conceptual framework of the explanation is organized into numbered segments with subtitles, which help with comprehension.

Notice how effectively the data is embedded directly into the landscape or displayed in small windows. This is a good way to show quantitative information while avoiding overwhelm. If this were being produced for a learning experience, users would need controls for easily repeating each segment and possibly more text, in order to retain the information.

Canal Isabel II by binalogue

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