Motion Graphics + Visual Explanation

The Conception of Wine by Tiago Cabaco was linked around the intertubes a couple of weeks ago (via @brainpicker). It’s a good visual explainer simply and elegantly executed in motion graphics.

We’ve also done a number of motion graphics at The New York Times. Thanks to NYT’s multimedia producer, Zach Wise (ie: @zlwise). Those who have come to one of my talks may have heard me say that motion graphics are under-used by many news organizations; motion graphics are excellent tools to explain complex ideas or processes in compressed time.

But - and it’s an important but - I’m a huge fan because of the power of visual explanation, not the presence of eye candy. Don’t get me wrong: There is plenty of sweetness to be enjoyed out there. I gobble up eye candy as much as the next guy. Moving typography and layered textures on a heavy drum beat can be beautifully compelling, as are dances of typography laid atop spoken words and music. It’s all good stuff - and probably a great exercise when breaking into the field, selling a product or producing a music video.

But the motion graphics that get me excited are those that help me understand complex stories. Sure, there are some out there that are simple moving slides with charts and graphs. That’s fine. But I’m specifically talking about motion graphics that use motion, spacial relationships and contrast to communicate concepts and relationships. These kinds of motion graphics help me understand process through narrative.

Jonathan Jarvis came out with “The Crisis of Credit Visualized" a year ago (February 2009, to be exact) and re-ignited my thinking about motion graphics and visual explanation. Since then, Jarvis launched The New Mediators to help expand the tools to others by designing a graphic language system and offering visuals icons.

Integrating motion graphics into the storytelling process, not relying entirely on the technique as the means of communication, is another important distinction. Zach, for example, integrated motion graphics in “Choosing a President" and "Inside the Private Equity Game" at the appropriate moment: when complex ideas and processes needed to be explained. Zach has a great outline of the beginnings of our workflow.  Because the process is new for us, we’re taking the necessary steps to figure out how it integrates within the newsroom and further our journalism.

Good Magazine has done a few of these as well; “On Skid Row" by Sam Slovick comes to mind. The movie trailer for the “The Kingdom” might also spark some inspiration.

Want more? I’m tagging such projects with Motion Graphics + Visual Explanation on my delicious. Blogs that often link to motion graphics and visual explanation are Motionographer and Information Aesthetics.

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