Developing Animations for Education: Where to start?

Communication is one of the critical factors leading to the success of the work, whether it is the instructional design of your course or the collaboration between you and your partners. Lots of my clients are confusing about how to create appropriate animations for education. They have never done it before, and they did not know where to start. In this article, I’d love to guide you through the pre-production animation process for an instructional video.

Start with Animations for Education

1. Get to know who you are working with

So let’s say you want to produce one or a series of animated educational video. You apparently set your ideas in mind (or perhaps not). Then the first thing you do is start looking for an animation partner. You would have several options like working with freelancers, local studios or those across the sea. The differences between these choices lie in the price and your quality expectation.

Maybe you should check out this article to explore deeper about your pricing options:
How much does an educational animation cost per minute: $30, $150 or $3,000?

Whatever your choice might be, you should always get to know who you are working with first. There are several things you should easily spot out beforehand:

  • Portfolio: Portfolio is the most direct way for studios to prove their abilities. Here presents their work with a variety of different styles. You could check out if they have “style”, and whether this “style” suits you and your project.
  • Clients: Most studios would show off their previous partners right on the homepages of the websites. It would be impressive if they worked with some big names in the industry. However, one thing needs more of your attention is actually their experiences with clients whose services are similar to yours. So if they have backgrounds in producing animations for education, they could even consult you on how to make animations that work.

The portfolio and clients showdown would show you the abilities of an animation studio or a skillful freelancer. When you have the better understanding of your partner, now it is time to let others get to know you. Let’s start with a brief.

2. Create a brief

The brief plays as an introduction message to your partners in the pre-production animation process. It would quickly help your production team understand more about your company, your project expectation as well as requirements. The brief should not be longer than two pages. Indeed, it would be best to stay within one page of document. Hence you should wrap up information such as:

  • Company and contact information: List some quick lines about your company, the name of your course, contact person name, and email.
  • Learning objectives: What are the messages or purposes of the animated educational videos? What are you trying to achieve with the animation for education? Or how would the animations help you reach your learning goals? Try to be more specific in this section of the brief so that the producers would have the better understanding of your expectations.
  • Primary audience: Demographics of the learners. The variation in ages, genders, living environments, and educational backgrounds could have a considerable impact on viewers’ video preference. For example, animations for students in leadership training programs are much different than those videos targeting ones taking engineering courses.

When you identify above general information clearly, you should move on to the animation expectation and requirements:

  • Delivery requirements: Sometimes educators need the videos in different resolutions and formats to work with their LMS or promotion channels. For example, you may ask your partner to deliver files in 16×9 orientation to embed in the course, square format for social media platforms or even GIF to replace dull static illustrations. In eLearning, it is also reasonable to request captions to make the content accessible to disadvantaged students.
  • Project deadlines: Set a deadline for your animated learning video project. However, a realistic project timeline indeed needs consideration depending on the animation complexity.
  • Budget: The price is indeed much flexible for many types of animations. Motion graphics are cheaper than hand-drawn animations most of the time. However, the complexity of motion graphics may vary on the project. As a result, the price also differs. If you set your budget beforehand, then your partner would propose you more suitable options.

The brief is just the first step when collaborating with an animation studio or freelancer. There is discussion to take and consideration to give before jumping off to the actual animation production.

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3. Attach branding guideline

The branding guideline is like the DNA of your organization. Your partner needs the branding guideline to ensure that the animations for education stay consistent with everything else of the course like the slide graphic design or the website.

So what happens if you do not have the branding guideline?

Firstly, you should have one.

Secondly, your partners would help you create a new style guide. They use the style guide to maintain the consistency of the animation series, making sure nothing look off.

Lastly, you could use such guideline to apply everything else in the course. Such an improvement in graphic design!

If you read my article explaining the different pricing plans between animation studios and freelancers, you must have understood that the best feature of tailor-made service is authentic styling options that fit perfectly your brand and target audience. There is no template. You are free to customize your animation style like adjusting the color scheme to be more bluish, which would make a perfect match for your blue branding guideline.

4. Identify your style preference:

Style preference would save you lots of time in the working process. Imagine the alternative universe where there is no style preference. You do not know what type and style of animation you like. You have no clear expectation or requirements. Either do your production partners. The customization gives you various choices to choose from, but it also means that there is more work for the producers, and more time we need to invest in. Or, you could give your partners style preference from the start!

You could start with a link. Send a link of the animated video with the style that is appropriate to your course. Such animation could give the production team references about the animation type, the video quality, and even the tone of the course. It would be best to find animations which have the most similarity to your expectation. If you are creating an animation for K12 kids, an educational animation in the same field would help the studio understand better about your requirements. In fact, sometimes it is not necessary to be that complicated. Just send them a video with a style you like.

5. Write the script

Yes, most animation studios have scriptwriters in-house. Nevertheless, to help the production process go smoother, you should write the script on your own, or at least craft ideas for script beforehand. You know the learning content best. Well, it would be challenging even for top scriptwriters to write about the cash flow management or the circulation system of human body.  Moreover, you understand what key elements engage and help students consume the ideas are. The scriptwriter may be master in generating a story for animation, but you are better at making the educational content. And you do not need to worry much about the script format. Your animation partner would sure help you edit the script to make it work.

On the other hand, many animations for education play as visual explanations to complicated concepts in a course. They need no plot or story. Lots of my clients provide us their voice-over and request animations to visualize their record. Yes, your voice-over would make a great script for the animation.

Read more:
> How to Write Animation Script for Video-based Courses
> Secret keys to write an awesome animation script

6. Provide visual materials for the storyboard

Sometimes the learning content becomes too specialized and complicated that you may need to provide your partner visual materials. Something like illustrations in a book, live-action footage references could help your collaborator craft the storyboard correctly.

Read more:
> 5 Steps to Create Animation Storyboard for Educational Purposes


The animators, even if they have done various projects for education, could not have an in-depth understanding of the instructional design as you do. So, to collaborate with the production partners effectively, you should involve more in pre-production steps of the animation process. Craft the script and provide materials for the storyboard. You could help them avoid many mistakes and confusion in the animations for education.

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