When should you animate an infographic?

We seem to be drowning in a flood of infographics, not least because there’s quite a bit to explain. But something that often comes up in our work is the question of when to animate an infographic, and when a still image will be sufficient. So we’ve come up with some guidelines, and like all good communicators everywhere, we’ve tried to make them memorable by creating a “model” (sigh…).

Think about four things:

  1. Sequence – the viewer needs to understand one item in a sequence before attempting to grasp the next one. So presenting them all at once in a still graphic won’t work.
     
  2. Substance – the viewer needs to be presented with small parts of a large mass of information one piece at a time. Presenting the whole mass of information would be confusing…so animate!
     
  3. Surprise – time-based media, like animations, allow you to set up a situation, then surprise the viewer through contradictory or unusual information. This is really important when you’re trying to challenge assumptions and pre-conceptions.
     
  4. Sizzle – (this one could be called “sex” but that might get us into trouble). Sometimes, the information you’re communicating is perceived as not being intrinsically interesting. However hard you try to polish it up with fancy illustration and colour, the viewer’s attention isn’t going to be held. So a bit of cosmetic animation, music and sound effects might just keep them interested.

Hope this is useful!