Data Visualization Toolkit: Animations Data Considerations

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In data visualizations, animations can be used to portray data in a persuasive, memorable, and effective way. We can show processes, tell stories, and evoke emotions — all of which are difficult or impossible with static graphics and text alone. Using free online tools, even a nonprofessional can easily create professional-looking animations to tell a data story. Here, we discuss the use of animation to support a broader narrative and how data are best visualized for this use.

Although similar to presentations, animations and the data visualization considerations for them are sufficiently different to stand as a distinct category. Find out more about presentation tools in the Presentations section of this toolkit.

Animations Data Considerations

Consider animations and videos when the context, or story, is as important as the data and your message is straightforward. Animations are particularly effective at focusing your message, instruction, or strategy in otherwise complex situations. Cartoons, for instance, tend to deconstruct our preconceptions and engage us visually, making us more receptive to information than a traditional presentation or video, at least temporarily.

The Story of Data: An Early Childhood Tale is a 2.5-minute video created by the IDEA Data Center to show how data informs early intervention decisions for a baby with disabilities. This animation was created using the online tool PowToon and demonstrates how animations can effectively communicate messages to audiences, such as families, in a simple yet engaging way.
Introducing PreventExpulsion.Org by SRI Education is a 4-minute video overview of the issue of preschool suspensions and expulsions and introduces a practice guide to address it. The video demonstrates how animation can serve multiple purposes such as introducing a topic and providing details on how to navigate a website or resource document. The video was created using PowToon.
aRRy says pic DEC Conference Wrap-Up from the ECTA Center is an animation featuring the DEC Recommended Practices avatar, aRPy. Avatars provide branding and, more important, draw your audience to your message. When people attribute human characteristics to the avatar, they begin to relate to the material in more personal ways.
Building Adult Capabilities picBuilding Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change from the Center on the Developing Child is a 5-minute video depicting a theory of change for achieving breakthrough outcomes for vulnerable children and families. It utilizes whiteboard animation in which pictures and words are drawn on a whiteboard to tell a story. Several online tools can be used to create whiteboard animations, including Animaker and PowToon.
Washington's Consistency IndexWashington’s Consistency Index is a 3-minute video on how Washington State is using the Consistency Index to measure alignment between a child’s evaluation, IEP, and services. The video demonstrates how animation can help simplify complex information and showcases some of the features of PowToon.

To learn more about how to use some of the tools mentioned in this section, visit the Tools tab.