Conveying Ideas with Animations

Animated videos have been quite popular on the internet ever since YouTube became big.

The reasons for the popularity of animated short explanation videos could be many: Whether it is because people have a limited attention span, or don’t want to read through hundreds of words of text, or this new medium allows more expressiveness.

Personally, I have very high hopes for creating understandable and easily consumable explanations and to explore this (for amateurs) relatively new medium of animations with voice over. I see a great future for decently produced animations, and they are just so much easier to share in the social web than unwieldy, long text.

So I’ve set myself the megalomanic goal of producing animated videos to express some psychological, philosophical, spiritual concepts. Much like xkcd, the first attempts have a good chance to be crap, but over time I should be getting better at this.

Of course, I am not getting started on this immediately – NOO! In my usual procrastination mode, I first have to develop a set of dozens of pictograms to visualize some of the most abstract concepts out there. And where better to start drawing pictograms than buying 10 books on pictograms on Amazon? Yes, I admit it, I am a fanatic, I am obsessive.

In order to document my progress, here are some Public Domain pictograms I have collected on the internet, based on which I am now planning to develop my own ones. Who would have thought that this could be so damn hard ;) I would have loved to find many, many more public domain pictograms, but many on the web are licensed under Creative Commons (which I find difficult to attribute for pictograms), and also of unclear authorship.

Pictograms by the Noun Project

Public Domain pictograms by The Noun Project. SVG source

Pictograms by the National Park Service ( - Public Domain

Pictograms by the National Park Service - Public Domain. , SVG source

The book I found most useful for getting an overview of the creation, goals and guidelines for pictograms was Pictograms, Icons, and Signs:

The next step is now to develop my own pictograms for concepts such as enlightenment, consciousness & happiness, to choose the right tools for creating animations (Keynote, Powerpoint, Apple Motion, prezi, etc.) and to actually get going.

Hope to be showing you my first results soon. Wish me luck ;)

Update: I am currently looking through some more cliparts of the collection which is actually completely Public Domain. You can also download the whole library

Seeing how seems to be down for a while, another nice website to search for free clipart (including much of the open clipart library) is

Selection of Open Clipart icons

Selection of Open Clipart icons - Public Domain. SVG source


Further Resources:

2 Responses to Conveying Ideas with Animations

  1. Drilly says:

    Hey Jonas,

    as a happy consumer of such animations, I am looking forward to your creations. And I am wondering, how it would be possible to express concepts like “enlightenment”, etc.

    The topic of conveying a lot of information with just a few pixels and motion is very fascinating. Just like the story of the new hazard symbol for nuclear material: (sorry, I don’t have a better link right now)

    Maybe you are interested in a resource that I found, while I had to look for icons (you can filter by license):


    • Jonas says:

      Hi Drilly,

      thanks for your encouraging feedback.
      Funnily enough it is not too hard for most concepts to express them as pictograms (with a couple of exceptions). I am currently learning some Inkscape to sketch my pictograms, but once again my lack of drawing and sketching exercise slows me down. But I should be making quite some progress in the next weeks.

      Unfortunately, I can’t get Mac OS X installed on my MacBook – I guess it hasn’t fully recovered from my BootCamp triple boot setup. Therefore, I still wasn’t able to test whether Keynote is the right tool, or whether I might go with the fantastic infinite-canvas prezi.

      Thanks for the link to I hadn’t even considered to look for GPL’ed content, because I was so annoyed by the attribution clause of Creative Commons licenses. Not sure how people are supposed to attribute dozens of pictograms used on signs or even in an animation.