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Animated Data Graphics: Bringing Information to Life

Introduction

Animation provides a powerful way to engage audiences and illuminate data narratives. Subtle motion guides focus, explains relationships, and reveals insights incrementally in data visualizations. Animation shifts sterile charts into living educational experiences.

This guide covers leveraging animation to enhance clarity and impact of data graphics. We will explore:

  • Benefits animation provides for data visualization
  • Types of animated transitions to incorporate
  • Strategic approaches for enter, update, and exit animations
  • Tools and templates to add keyframes and timelines
  • Design principles for intuitive animated data stories
  • Tactics to focus direction and avoid distractions
  • Inspiring real-world examples of animated data viz

By the end, you will have strategies to thoughtfully incorporate animation that makes your data visualizations more vivid, dynamic and memorable. Let’s dive in!

Why Add Animation to Data Visuals?

Some key benefits animation provides:

Engagement

Motion grabs viewer attention and heightens emotional impact.

Step-by-Step Explanations

Animations can methodically walk through data stories.

Emphasize Data Changes

Animations spotlight evolving trends and relationships.

Guide Focus

Transitions direct attention to highlight insights.

Visualized Processes

Show flows, mechanisms and sequences through motion.

Feedback and Interactivity

Animations provide intuitive visual feedback to interactions.

Incremental Reveals

Each scene unveils additional information to avoid overloading.

Aesthetic Flair

Subtle motion adds stylistic dynamism and polish when done tastefully.

Seamless motion enhances data impact and memorability when applied intentionally.

Types of Animated Data Transitions

Common animated data transitions include:

Enter/Exit – Objects fade, transform, slide, scale into view.

Emphasis – Draw attention with bounces, flashes, enlarging on hover.

Path Motion – Trace lines, areas or nodes across trajectories.

Changes Over Time – Increment data values through bars filling, line extending.

Zooming and Panning – Scroll and zoom into details within visuals.

Section Highlighting – Spotlight specific regions with illumination.

Color Changes – Shift hues to encode data variations.

Loading Sequence – Build up visuals through piece-by-piece assembly.

Interactive Feedback – Buttons depress, switches toggle on activation.

Match transitions strategically to reinforcing data explanations and engaging viewers.

Strategic Approaches to Data Viz Animation

Some techniques for key stages of animation sequences:

Enter Animations

Set the Scene – Fade in initial data view oriented and framed effectively.

Hook With Motion – Use initial visual flare to capture viewer intrigue.

Introduce Key Elements – Draw attention to main characters, data variables and controls.

Update Animations

Illustrate Relationships – Trace motion paths linking associated elements.

Highlight Changes – Use timing, scaling, pulsing to spotlight data changes.

Reframe Views – Pan, zoom, filter data to reorient around new focus areas.

Exit Animations

Reinforce Key Takeaways – Final flourish to underscore main conclusions.

Provide Closure – Clear transition signaling data story end.

Prompt Action – Encourage further exploration or tie back to opening problem.

Choreograph animations to guide seamless data comprehension and impact.

Data Viz Animation Tools and Templates

Top tools for adding animations to data visuals:

Flourish – Easy animated chart templates with handy presets for transitions and sequence timing.

Adobe After Effects – Powerful expansive toolset for complex data video production and motion design.

** xcode** – Browser-based code animation library for JavaScript data visualizations.

Tableau – Build animated data dashboards and stories with transitions like highlighting, filtering and zooming.

Matplotlib Animation – Python data visualization library with powerful animations for interactive charting.

Processing – Flexible graphic programming framework for coding animated data viz.

Datawrapper – Simple customized animations for explanatory data viz like pulsing annotation highlights.

Mapbox – Animate routes, geo-visuals and locational narratives with custom map layers.

Visme – drag-and-drop animated infographics with presets for common data transitions.

These tools help simplify adding motion to data narration without intensive coding or design experience.

Design Principles for Intuitive Animated Data Stories

Some key principles for animation design:

Clear Sequence

Use logical ordering and timing for seamless flow.

Subtle Motion

Avoid distracting, frenetic transitions. Favor gentle pacing.

Consistency

Reuse the same animations for the same data events.

Emphasize Causality

Use motion to illustrate causal links between data variables.

Reinforce Patterns

Animate to spotlight meaningful data relationships over time.

Intuitive Interactions

Transitions should respond fluidly to clicks, hovers and inputs.

Minimalist Style

Avoid overdesigned transitions that draw attention from data story.

Accessibility

Allow control over timing and playback for vestibular disorders.

Clean animated data stories guide by increments without diversion.

Direct Focus and Avoid Distraction

Some techniques to hone direction with animation:

  • Establish visual consistency between animated transitions and data variables
  • Order multiple animations sequentially to avoid disjointedness
  • Frame views and scale motion appropriately so key areas don’t move out of view
  • Use gradual gestures vs abrupt transitions for seamless continuity
  • Avoid distracting overanimation and elaborate scene transitions without purpose
  • Time rapid transitions briefly to direct attention without causing strain
  • Disable unnecessary chart motion features like distracting data point pop-ups
  • Allow users control over animation playback and timing

Intentional, minimalist direction keeps focus on illuminating data insights.

Real World Examples of Skillful Animated Data Viz

Let’s look at some excellent examples of animation applied to enhance data visualizations:

BBC – Short data-driven explainers use energetic mixed media animated breakdowns of stats and trends.

Pitch Interactive – Projects like A Right Denied use subtle animation to emphasize personal data stories.

Gramener – The studio creates flowing data motion graphics like this year in review packed with sequenced data narrative animation.

Nightingale – Minimalist pieces like How Life Has Changed for America’s Children demonstrate less is more with animation.

Wolfram – Motion graphics like U.S. Daily Deaths from COVID-19 leverage animation artfully to reveal pandemic data stories.

These examples showcase animation applied effectively to guide compelling data explanations without overdesign.

Key Takeaways

Some core tips for employing animation skillfully:

  • Match enter, exit and transition animations to explanations of data changes
  • Design animated sequences to methodically reveal insights in steps
  • Apply consistent motion styles between data variables and transitions
  • Focus direction with subtle gestures versus elaborate effects
  • Enable intuitive control over timing and playback

When applied intentionally, animation can shift sterile data visuals into memorable living experiences that guide audiences through illuminating discoveries. Treat animation as an ally that when thoughtfully directed spotlights your data narrative.

Conclusion

In summary, animation provides a powerful way to bring data visualizations to life while guiding viewer attention and strengthening comprehension. Subtle motion incorporates a dynamic, editorial element absent from static graphics to tell data stories that inform and inspire. Just take care not to overanimate and lose focus on the information itself. Used skillfully, animation transforms sterile charts into cinematic educational tools that stick with audiences long after the viewing experience. Make your data memora and impactful by seamlessly blending intuition-driven motion with compelling data visualization narratives.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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