On Animation
February 21, 2022

These 8 Explainer Videos Are Mixing Things Up In A Good Way

There’s a reason the status quo is the status quo. At some point or other, the thing worked well enough (or pretended to work well enough) that lots of people decided to do the thing. Soon enough, “that’s just the way things are done” is the common response and boom: the status quo is born.

But variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Breaking new ground, inventing innovations, and creating things rarely seen are all strong ways to draw an eager audience. In the world of advertising and explainer videos the status quo is alive and strong, especially when it comes to the ‘corporate look’ of explainer animation (check out more about why people hate the corporate art style: However, there are more than a few examples out there of explainer videos that are breaking the mould and mixing things up to great effect. Today we’ve gathered eight stand out examples to feast your eyes and ears on.

1) inverting the cliché colour palette:
Animated explainer videos often rely by default on light, bright colours to draw attention (and to create an feeling of wholesome happiness that aligns with the jangly ukulele music used in every explainer video ever). Slalom Build mixes things up in their ‘Build as a Service’ video by inverting the regular colour palette: using a dark blue background instead of a light one, and light coloured text and line instead of dark. The very few times the colour palette switches back to a dark on light scheme, it serves to highlight the most important parts of the parts of the video: the name of the service, and the final word of the video. This simple change up in expected colour use gives the promo a sleek, futuristic look, fitting for a B2B technology management service.

2) massively mixed media:

While mixing different styles of animation is becoming slightly more commonplace in explainer videos these days, this promo for TradeStation takes things to the next level by using a mix of live action, stop motion animation, 2D animation, 2.5D motion graphics, and even puppetry. This melding of styles fits perfectly with the theme of the video: that anyone, no matter who they are or what they look like, can trade online. Linking together these wildly differing styles is an overall colour scheme of blue, yellow, and beige, which aligns with the unifying message in the video: that all different traders are looking for an edge in their trades.

3) keeping it casual:

Many live action explainer videos have a tendency toward a neutral, clean-cut image. Unfortunately, B-roll of business people in white (or – gasp – light blue) button up shirts sitting at a generic desk in a generic office with occasional cuts to lightly smiling co-workers doesn’t exactly scream interesting. The online survey service Typeform takes a different route, using unusual characters (eg. a scruffy dog, an even scruffier man) against simple solid coloured backgrounds of yellow, blue, and pink. This simple, casual style leaves room for the more complex text of the ad: a scrolling multiple choice checklist format which demonstrates the format of the app.

4) not afraid to get a little dirty:

The generic clean cut image isn’t just a cliché amongst live action explainer videos, but also animation. The ultra smooth rendering of vector graphics unfortunately means that many flat 2D explainers end up looking more than a little bland. Data storage service Cohesity gets around this problem by dirtying things up a little. Grain effects – that is, giving an image a mildly fuzzy, ‘grainy’ look like an old analogue TV – are used in this explainer as a tasteful way as a way to push the background away from the foreground in an otherwise flat vector video. By using grain effects for background elements, a subtle focus effect is created and the viewers eye is naturally drawn toward the cleaner ‘in focus’ images in front, where the most important information is.

5) a little song and dance number:

Animated explainer videos sure do love their narration. But heating control service Hive pulls a swift one by opening with regular spoken word… before smoothly breaking into song. The increased memory retention of song vs. spoken word can’t be overstated. The catchy, cutesy tune is accompanied by equally cutesy animated animal characters doing ridiculous things, but the repetitive hook of “Hive is busy controlling your heating at home” is the part that will hang in your head long after watching.

6) self deprecating humour:

While most explainer videos tend to take themselves and their brands rather seriously, “Don’t Be A Pitch” by Celery is a subversive video which pokes fun at the kind of unrealistic language used in pitch videos… while also being a pitch video. While this video is directly aimed at crowdfunding videos, it also very closely aligns with the kind of dialogue found in explainer videos.

7) show, don’t tell:

SafeDrive uses the conventional problem/solution format that many explainer videos use. But instead of having a narrator literally explaining the ‘problem’ part of the video, the issue is instead presented by using ‘found footage’ style clips of reporters giving facts about the dangers of texting while driving. This ‘show don’t tell’ method of scriptwriting offers more authority – instead of a formless voice simply telling us that texting while driving is bad, facts are presented for the viewer to come to their own conclusions.

8) setting visual boundaries:

Where many explainer videos use animation and effects as a way to depict any place and any action, this Squarespace promo focuses on one simple visual idea: looking face down at a desk. By using visual boundaries, they compare and contrast features of different freelance professions – from the noisy, rustic wood desk of a handy person (featuring a welding torch being lit) to the black, tech laden desk of a music producer, to the minimalist white desk of a comic artist. This highlights the value of Squarespace’s website service in creating your own unique virtual ‘workspace’.

break the mould
motion graphics
spice it up
Written by
Maree Railton

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