Bas Broekhuizen

Wanted: an interactive explanimation

2010-12-24 | Visualisatie

The one thing that has always fascinated me most about online media – first as a journalist, now as a researcher – is the evolution of new, digital genres. Interactive infographics are one example, explanimations an other. The last term is a contraction from animation and explanation and is used for… well, animations that explain something. The concept has been around for a while (think about the Did You Know video’s) but it was not before I saw a presentation by In60Second, a Dutch company that specializes in explanimations, that I came to think about it as a genre. For me the archetype explanimaton is The Crisis of Credit Visualized by Jonathan Jarvis, but there are much more examples. I kind of collect them, so be sure to post your own favorites in the comments.

The thing I like about explanimations is their persuasive power. They often use voice over, music and sound effects to grab your attention. Their strong pace keeps you involved. At the same time, that’s also their disadvantage: they are classic, linear stories that don’t let you dig deeper to understand better. That, of course, is one of the main characteristics of interactive explanations like this older example about Dutch biofuel plant Ecoson or this recent one about the pros and cons of a school reform in Germany.

The holy adage of the infographic community reads “Show, don’t tell”, I know. But sometimes I wonder if it is possible to have the best of both worlds: the engaging power of explanimations, and the in-depth features offered by interactivity. So if you know a nice example, please let me know!

BONUS: an explanimation that doesn’t explain anything at all except the creativity of the designers: