Visualising Attachment - Our latest film for Cynthia Hall AND the Karyn Purvis Institute

What are the key skills our team employs when creating a successful whiteboard animation? One of the most important is the ability to balance a successful narrative and plenty of information.

The delicate balance between these two aspects is what allows our animated explainer films to both engage and inform in a fluid and entertaining sequence of ideas. A veteran of this process is one of Cognitive's Senior Creatives, Dan Stirrup. Dan demonstrates this balance in action as he explains the visual thinking that sits behind our latest film for Cynthia Hall and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development called 'TBRI: Attachment'.

Our challenge was to make an accessible, engaging and emotive explainer film that conveyed both the valuable work of the Karyn Purvis Institute, and the scientific research that backs it up.
— Dan Stirrup
Dan Stirrup

Dan Stirrup

In our whiteboard animation with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, we explored in detail the theory of 'Attachment', which is the bond created between a child and a caregiver. 

Attachment theory was first developed by Psychologist John Bowlby and new light was shed on the idea when Mary Ainsworth conducted her ‘Strange Situation’ procedure in the 1970s. The findings from these experiments provide the context for this film. Our storytelling structure positions Psychology Professor Dr David Cross examining a range of parenting scenarios and the effects they can have on a child.

Our challenge was to make an accessible, engaging and emotive explainer film that conveyed both the valuable work of the Karyn Purvis Institute, and the scientific research that backs it up.  

Our starting point was a voiceover track that had been edited down from an interview with Dr Cross. This gave us an authentic, unscripted, conversational voice that was a perfect fit for the tone of the piece and more akin to the work we do on our RSA Animate series, where we work from live-recorded lectures.

We used our visual thinking, to enhance and elaborate the content, making this deeper concept clear.
— Dan Stirrup

 The longer format of our ‘Extra Narrative’ whiteboard animation gave us the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the theory Dr Cross was discussing.

The attachment styles of all children fall into four categories, each of which is discussed in detail in Dr Cross’s narration. The source Voiceover did not have as much detail on the corresponding categories for the adults that these children would develop into, so this is where the power of visual thinking proves invaluable. We can use pictures to enhance and elaborate the content, making these deeper concepts clear and unambiguous.

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We use 'Big Picture' thinking to capitalise on the two hemispheres of the brain and their individual preferences of understanding the world. The left hemisphere likes to work with detail and fragmentation, which is great for when we unpack ideas and explore the nitty-gritty. At the end of one of our animated explainer videos we like to cement all those ideas together with our trademark reveal of a 'Big Picture'. This is where the context preferential right hemisphere kicks in and can understand the helicopter view of our joined-up thinking. 

Iain McGilchrist explains this in more detail in our RSA Animate, 'The Divided Brain'.

In the opening scene of our TBRI film, a secure attachment between a parent and child is described as a ‘secure base’ for exploring the world. This gave us the underlying structure for our ‘big picture’ design. Describing each child’s story as an upward progression from a physical platform allowed us to explore the idea of stability and growth, both for the secure child, and the less fortunate; those whom Karyn Purvis’s ‘Trust-Based Relational Intervention’ (TBRI) technique aims to help.

I like to think of these visual structures as stages and sets on which we can enact the individual scenes that tell our client’s story
— Dan Stirrup
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When we have the opportunity to tell a bigger story, with more visual language and animation, we provide our clients with the 'extra narrative' they need to thoroughly explore and express all their ideas and important messages. At Cognitive, in providing this richer story, we often think in terms of theatre and stage design. It is on these visual structures that we can assemble sets, props and 'actors' that can tell any story we can imagine.

In the image above, we are displaying both theoretical information (a combination of psychology and neuroscience) and the practical:  the real life scenarios that affect children as they grow and learn. It is important that we populate our films with a cast of diverse, relatable characters to ensure the films are emotionally as well as intellectually engaging. 

We know that people relate to people and strong characterisation is at the heart of all of our films. In this particular animation, we employed simple and easily read body language and gesture drawing enhanced by animated touches that amplify the human qualities of the characters. This ensures that the human story is not overwhelmed by abstract theory.

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At Cognitive, we pride ourselves on being able to communicate complex ideas. It was fascinating to create a film that clearly explains some of the complexities involved with the relationships we all form in life, and how an understanding of this can help transform people’s lives. 

If you would like to find out more about how we can apply our visual thinking to your message then please get in touch.