What is whiteboard animation?

Whiteboard Animation has become very popular, mainly due to the tremendous success of the RSA Animate series that we developed to help the RSA tell some of the world's most important stories. But what is Whiteboard Animation and why should you use it to supercharge your storytelling?

Whiteboard animation is a particular type of explainer video and pretty much does what it says on the tin – images, diagrams and words are drawn onto a crisp, white background using a sharp, black marker pen. The blacks are accented with a red marker or other punchy colours that stand out against the black and white. The images illustrate a spoken voice-over script that can be heard above the animation. The drawings bring concepts to life in a highly visual way using instantly recognisable symbols and images to add to and reinforce the central messages of the script.

Whiteboard animations aim to utilise several parts of our intelligences at once. Auditory, visual and to some degree kinesthetic, to hopefully cater for many different types of learners.

Whiteboard Animation increases viewer recall of information by over 15%.

When we developed the process of filming our ‘Live Scribing’ and subsequently inventing what would become the 'Whiteboard Animation' technique, we didn’t initially know how popular the technique would become. In fact, it has become so popular that we can safely say that it is now a fully-fledged medium in its own right. There is a whole industry that has been built on the back of our work and this makes us immensely proud. Cognitive have also used the Whitebaord Animation technique with organisations such as TED and the BBC to help them make their meaningful content shine.

We were astounded by just how viral our RSA Animate films were, using the 'Whiteboard Animation' medium and that made us want to understand what was driving those numbers and why people were going crazy for content delivered in this revolutionary way.

Through the popularity of our RSA Animate series, Cognitive became quite well known and we built up an audience who were interested in how to communicate using our technique. We were very fortunate to strike up a relationship with eminent psychologist, author and magician, Professor Richard Wiseman, with whom we made these films for his book “.59 Seconds’. In our conversations we talked about the psychology of Whiteboard Animation and how it might work and what makes it so appealing. We decided to run some research, which Richard very kindly designed and ran.

Of course we made a short Whiteboard Animation to present our findings.

You can see for yourself by watching the two videos we used for the experiment.

To access Professor Wiseman's research on 'Drawing Knowledge: An experimental comparison of a 'talking head'
and animation-based video, please click the 'Download Research' button below.


So why does whiteboard animation work so well? Here's what we think:

  1. Half our brains are dedicated to the processing of visual input, so we find it easier to process information if it is presented as an image rather than just words or numbers.
  2. Many people acquire knowledge visually. By using effective visual cues, whiteboard animations exploit people’s visual learning preference.
  3. People do things better when they’re in a good mood. Because whiteboard animations bring fun and life to any subject, viewers enjoy them and are mentally put into a state where they are better able to receive information.
  4. Because whiteboards have an immediate association with school or college, people subconsciously put themselves into learning mode when watching whiteboard animations.
  5. People remember stories. Whiteboard animations create visual storylines that re-inforce verbal information.
  6. By combining words, pictures, storytelling and animation, the brain is stimulated in a number of ways at once, all of which are conveying the same message, thus helping that message stick.


More about the Whiteboard Animation concept

The RSA Animate Revolution - Andrew Park and Richard Wiseman

If you want to hear our Director Andrew Park discuss how the RSA Animate 'Whiteboard Animation' technique works, watch his conversation with Professor Richard Wiseman at the RSA in London.

Making visual confectionery - Andrew Park TEDxBermuda

How do you make art useful? What is the role of the artist in the 21st century? These are some of the questions Andrew Park tries to answer in his TEDx talk. Using 'Whiteboard Animation' Andrew takes us on a highly visual journey from a damp artist's studio on the south coast of England to a high-tech collaborative work-space that transformed his creative practice and led to breakthroughs in his art and visual communication.

I was taught how to really be an artist by a bunch of accountants
— Andrew Park

Intrigued to find out if Whiteboard Animation can supercharge your presentation, help you communicate better or improve your audience's retention?