Behind The Scenes
On Animation
May 18, 2020

5 More Ways To Be Visually Creative With Your Explainer Videos

Are the four walls of your house getting you down? Wanting to get some ideas for video content but struggling with the art side of things? Feeling sorely in need of a bit of creative inspiration? A while back we talked through ten unique tips for fostering some visual creativity in your explainer videos. But what’s even better than ten? That’s right – fifteen. Science has proven categorically that fifteen is more than ten, and therefore better (except when calculating the number of spiders in a two-metre radius). So to get us to that sweet number fifteen today we’re checking out five more ways you can foster some visual creativity for your explainer video content.

1) word association

Trying to put together some really unique visual ideas? Good old fashioned word association could be your ticket for the next creativity train. There are a multitude of different online tools to help the word association process. Visuwords ( is a complex graphic dictionary which takes a given search term and visually maps out that word’s meanings, instances, similarities, types, opposites, and much more with a colour-coded neural net. is an experimental association database structured in a ‘pass or play’ game format to get the brain juices flowing, while the site’s search function ranks associated words from strong to very weak based on statistical input.

If you like a real-world touch, consider picking up some blank magnet sheets at the dollar store and recreating the ‘Magnetic Poetry’ toy ( with your own custom words. Write down locations, character assets, props, colours, and design elements, and mix and match to see what unique connections you can make. Remember to jot down your thoughts as you go so you don’t lose your magnetic ideas.

2) use osborn’s checklist for visual brainstorming

Based on a classical brainstorming tool developed by Alex Osborn, Osborn’s checklist is a series of questions aimed at provoking creative thinking and discussion on design problems. Major headings of Osborn’s Checklist include Other Uses?, Adapt?, Modify?, Magnify?, Minify?, Substitute?, Rearrange?, Reverse?, and Combine?, with each one representing a list of specific questions. Modify? asks questions like ‘New twist?’, and ‘Change meaning, colour, motion, odour, taste, form, shape?’ while Minify? asks things like ‘What to subtract?’, ‘Shorter? Narrower? Lighter? Split Up? Understate?’.

By focussing these questions on visual design ideas we can get very creative – from solving pre-existing design issues, to develop different visual versions of the same core concept, to taking visual ideas in completely new directions we hadn’t previously considered.

3) do writing exercises to stimulate visual ideas

Oftentimes creative ideas seem a lot more grandiose in our minds than on the screen or paper. Once we start jotting down the actual details, gaps and flaws start revealing themselves in our shiny ideas, which means the real work can begin on crafting a real project which really exists in the real world, for real. This can understandably be a scary step for many people who are reluctant to let go of their precious darling ideas, holding fears that they’ll be misinterpreted, or stolen, or just won’t be that good when put down onto paper.

But getting the jump on this fear can be as easy as jotting down a few lines of writing in a few short minutes. Get a timer, set it to two minutes, and then for that two minutes just write as much as you can – about any idea – then stop. Start your timer again for two minutes, and try to beat your word count. Don’t stop to think about whether what you’re writing is good. You don’t have time for that! Try one last time, and this time describe a scene – the first visual location that comes to your mind – and again try to beat your word count. What we’re doing here is pushing out the strained, contrived, and self-conscious words in favour of letting the creative mind have more free reign. By accessing the creative juices needed for writing we can more easily plot out visual ideas in a real space, getting them out of our own heads and in front of audiences, where they belong.

4) visit an art supply store

One issue you might be facing with your explainer videos is the creeping oversaturation of flat, lifeless vector art. Don’t get me wrong, vector art is a fantastic medium for both creative and corporate video, and when done right it’s done very, very right. Unfortunately due to the ease of creating it compared to other forms of animation, there’s a large amount of content floating around which barely scrapes the ‘mediocre’ bar, leaving many viewers to assume that basic flat-coloured graphics are all explainers have to offer.

To break out of the vector mindset and get some new texture and media ideas, consider taking a trip to an art supply store (whether in-person or virtually). Keep an open mind and look at art mediums you might not have previously considered producing in a digital project – crayons, felt, charcoal, oil paint, watercolours, textured papers, hard and soft-bristled brushes, sponges, clay, metal crafts: the list goes on. Get familiar with different textures, what each one makes you feel and how to combine them. Each has its own distinct visual texture and emotional connections, and will have unique looks when recreated in a digital and animated format.

5) do some good old-fashioned research

Hit the library, the bookstore, or your ol’ pal Google to read up on the areas you’re trying to spark creativity in. The trick here is to both think laterally and to be specific: if you’re aiming to come up with interesting location ideas for your explainer video backgrounds your first thought may be to research ‘background design’. But consider going beyond that: if you’re considering an indoor setting check out some books on interior design and architecture to get a strong sense of decade and style in your ideas. If you’re looking for unique outdoor backgrounds look into researching travel guides to find out what shapes, colours, and design features are indicative of each type of landscape and culture.

word association
Written by
Maree Railton

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