Best practices for transitions in a visual narrative

Let’s examine how to provide transition guidance in a data storytelling visual narrative. Creating effective and engaging visual narratives requires a strategic approach, and there are certain best practices to guide you. Here we will review object continuity, viewer (or camera) motion, and animated transitions.

1) Familiar objects: These provide intuitive cues for users to navigate through the narrative. To ensure effective use:

  • Ensure high probability of familiarity: Objects or icons should be recognizable and commonly understood visual representations that users are familiar with in their everyday lives.  For example, using a door icon to represent moving to a new section or a back arrow icon to signify returning to a previous page. Familiar objects help users quickly understand the purpose and function of interactive elements, facilitating smoother transitions between different parts of the visual narrative.

2) Object continuity: This principle ensures that the objects in your visual narrative are consistent and easy to follow. To maintain object continuity:

  • Utilize a clear visual identity: Consistently use colors, fonts, and icons throughout your visual narrative. For example, if you’re using a bar chart to show sales data, use the same color for sales bars throughout your presentation. 
  • Maintain object locations: Keep the locations of the elements consistent in your visuals. For instance, if a specific chart is always on the right side of the slide, your audience will know where to find that information.

3) Viewer (camera) motion: This refers to how the visual narrative guides the viewer’s eye through the story. Using effective motion can enhance the viewer’s understanding of the data. To achieve this:

  • Guide the viewer’s gaze: Direct the viewer’s eye using arrows, lines, and other visual cues. For example, in a map showing the progression of a disease outbreak, use arrows to indicate the movement of the outbreak from one location to another. 
  • Use zoom in/zoom out techniques: Introduce a broader view of your data, then narrow it down to focus on critical insights. For instance, starting with a global map of countries with the highest carbon emissions and then zooming into specific regions with the largest contributions.

4) Animated transitions: Animations can add an engaging and dynamic element to your visual narrative. However, it’s essential to use them judiciously so as not to overwhelm the viewer. Here are some tips for using animated transitions effectively:

  • Use animations to clarify the story: Use animations to guide the viewer through the visual narrative and highlight important data points. An example of this is animating the growth of a tree to represent the growth of a company over time. 
  • Keep animations simple: Overly complicated animations can distract from the data story. Stick to simple animations that complement the narrative without stealing the spotlight. 
  • Minimize abrupt changes: Ensure your animated transitions are smooth and don’t produce abrupt changes in object locations or viewer attention. 

By implementing object continuity, viewer motion, and animated transitions effectively, you’ll be able to create a visual narrative that engages your audience and elevates your data story.