As a producer for a whiteboard video production company, I occasionally come across questions from clients who expected their whiteboard video to look a little… different than the final product.
Sometimes they thought they’d see the sort of “standard” animation style you might see in a cartoon. That is not the style reflected in a whiteboard video.
So why does whiteboard take a different approach to animation?
The TruScribe whiteboard video style is based on design principles, with the express purpose of advancing and improving your messaging. Those design principles, which we’ve collectively termed Scribology, are informed by psychological and neuroscientific research. They have been proven to drive up engagement in, and retention of, a client’s message.
Let’s compare how some of these principles work—or don’t work—in whiteboard and in animation, starting with the principle of motion.
Motion in a Whiteboard Video
The principle of motion tells us that our ancient instincts pull the eye towards motion, and can even turn the head to track movement. In our whiteboard videos, we use the artist’s hand and marker to create motion on the screen that pulls the audience’s attention to the most important parts of the frame.
Once drawn, the images are still; we use the motion of the drawing to attract attention to it, which, in turn, reinforces the message the viewer hears from the narrator.
In “standard” animation, there’s no human hand, and the images themselves move.
The main benefit in this difference is freedom from distraction. With a plethora of moving images in traditional animation, the eye is pulled all over the frame. But there can’t be four “most important parts” of a frame. The focus and intentionality of motion is gone. And with it goes the focus on the drawings and the attention to the message.
Then, there’s the principle of color. In whiteboard video, we use a single accent color as an attractive focal tool.
Much like the moving hand, the accent color is used at the most relevant parts of the frame, creating a hard-to-miss visual distinction that clearly delineates which images are most important to the message.
In “standard” animation, accent colors are rare; in fact, the norm is to be as colorful as possible. This erases any one color’s claim to highest significance, meaning color will have no role in determining where the viewer’s eye will go. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The color style of “standard” animation will make the eye dart from image to image, taking in the visual pleasure of the colors—and ignoring the audio track and message.
Hand-Drawn Images Bring a Human Connection
We also greatly value the principle of hand-drawn images. Beyond being an element of motion, the artist’s hand is a sort of character, a relatable, personified creator that the brain naturally wants to follow. Where it goes, so does the eye, and so the hand-drawn whiteboard video has already earned three focal tools—the hand, its movement, and the accent color it applies.
“Standard” animation has no human hand, so this principle is missing entirely. The images, while often beautiful and enjoyable, don’t feel authentic the way the images in a hand-drawn whiteboard video do. There’s no question as to whether or not the art in a whiteboard video was computer-generated, or pulled from a stock group of characters that the animator simply reuses. The human hand shows each image as it’s drawn, keeping it grounded and real.
Visuals Enhance the Audio
The principle of synchronization, or the importance of audio and visual elements cohering well for the viewer, is a core part of whiteboard content creation. Our drawings reinforce our voiced message, so effective synchronization is key to maintain engagement and improve retention.
There’s a different relationship in “standard” animation between the audio and visual elements, one which is far less concerned with successful messaging. It’s common to have fully unrelated imagery, moving and doing interesting things, while a narrator speaks off-camera.
These scenarios reveal “standard” animation’s loose, haphazard relationship to the principle of synchronization. In entertainment, this loose connection might be fine; if you want to successfully transmit a retainable message, though, “standard” animation’s approach to sync should not be your first choice.
Surprise is Rewarding
Finally, there’s the principle of surprise. Surprise causes the brain to release dopamine, which causes the brain to become and remain curious. In whiteboard video, surprise happens often, keeping engagement up by getting the audience interested in what will be drawn next.
When the voiceover mentions a word like “loyalty,” for example, the viewer is curious as to how the artist will visually express this concept—and they end up pleasantly surprised, whether or not they guessed correctly. That surprise carries them into the next image, and the cascade of engagement continues.
In “standard” animation, there’s less surprise, because there are less triggers for it. We simply see the drawn characters, moving in the frame; we don’t have time to become curious, because we don’t see the image go from nothing to a character the way we do on a whiteboard.
Of course, we don’t know exactly what the animator will show us, so surprise still exists—it’s just not as frequent, and it isn’t meaningful the way that it is in whiteboard. Surprise exists in whiteboard to drive engagement, which in turn maintains focus on the video, which maintains focus on a message, and secures it in the mind for later recall and use. Surprise in “standard” animation is far less calculated and useful.
So, why isn’t your whiteboard video animated?
The short answer is that we want your whiteboard video to be as effective as possible. Animation limits that effectiveness.
In whiteboard, we can employ design principles like motion, color, hand-drawn images, synchronization, and surprise. Those elements keep your viewers engaged and increase their retention of your message.
There’s nothing wrong with “standard” animation, but when it comes to providing a powerful piece of carefully-crafted communication for your business, we’ll go with the medium that lets us maximize the power of the design principles of Scribology: whiteboard.