Animation in Data Visualization

May 31, 2022

Visualized information has always been significant. Be it in ancient history, with early men living in caves, sculptures on monuments, or in today’s world filled with Data. Supporting information with visuals simply facilitates its reaching a targeted audience. Pictograms and motion graphics are the important conveyance of Information today. Infographics facilitate our everyday life and fuel our understanding of the environment and the information that we read. 

Data Visualization is associated with the practice of transforming raw data into information in the form of visual objects and text that can be perceived by the human brain faster and more effectively. Adding animation to the same would bring data to life and make storytelling further comprehensive. 

Animation in Visualization is the process of moving from static information to dynamic information. In some cases, the process can even facilitate interaction with the data for the users. The primary objective of such animation is not an exploration of data, but rather to decipher the underlying pattern. Comprehending trends, dispersion, and reasoning outliers becomes easy. 

Why Animation?

  • Engagement Various tools have made it easier for organizations to create Dashboards. To capture the interest of customers, the dashboard should have content that stands out from the noise and enhances the eagerness of the customer.
  • Emotion Animations help in communicating better with the viewers. It readily influences human perception, attention, learning as well as memory. Adding a distinctive touch creates a long-lasting effect, an attachment, and thus is powerful in conveying information.
  • Information Identification Of all the stars in the sky, a shooting star is the most interesting one. Similarly, a moving object with clear text directly hints to the audience about its importance. It taps into human sensitivity and helps maintain consistency in the information conveyed to different audiences.
  • Illustrating progression Cumulative effects in time sequences can easily be illustrated by a change in the level of detail in the visualization.
  • Understanding changes In static visualizations, changing a filter instantly changes the graph. Sometimes it is also crucial to know how many data points moved to rearrange according to the new filter.  

Types Of Animation in Data Visualization 

There are 3 types of animations in data visualization, they are:

  1. Narrative Storytelling
  2. Multiframe Sequence
  3. Transitions between States
  • Narrative Storytelling This is used for explaining simple dashboards with cause-and-effect visualizations. This is in descriptive format and mostly explained through scrolling. 
  • Multiframe Sequence – It is a playback of a video watched in its entirety to make out information. The user has the control to pause, and advance helping them to immerse in the matter explained via the dashboard.
  • Transitions between States – It helps to demonstrate the consistency of data within the same graph when it is shown to change over a filter.

Types of Transitions 

Seven types of animated transitions are established, they are:

  1. View Transformation
  2. Substrate transformation
  3. Filtering
  4. Ordering transitions
  5. Timestep transitions
  6. Visualization change
  7. Data schema changes
  • View transformation These are transitions with simple camera movements i.e lateral or zoom. 
  • Substrate transformation These include spatial changes where the grids and axes are anchored.  
  • Filtering Simple removal of elements owing to some criteria is considered filtering animation.
  • Ordering transitions Arrangement of data points in descending or ascending order to give clear indications.
  • Timestep transitions Showing the change in data over time fall under this category.
  • Visualization change Transition from one kind of chart to another which include shape, color, and size. 
  • Data schema changes These explain the change of data by imposing the newer set on the existing and facilitating comparison. 

Tools For Animating Data Visualization

The best tools used for animating data visualization are as follows:

  1. Tableau
  2. Power BI
  3. Dundas BI
  4. Flourish
  5. Visme
  6. Adobe
  • Tableau It comes with the built-in feature of Animation. From the Format option, we can choose Animation which is set ‘On’ by default. Next, we can select the duration of the animation and the Style. This includes two options namely Sequential and Simultaneous. Simultaneous to play all animations at once or Sequential to fade out marks, move and sort them, and then fade them in. This step is followed by adding the desired field of animation to the Pages Shelf so we can achieve an animated data chart. However, there are certain features that cannot be animated in Tableau.
    • Maps, polygons, and density marks in web browsers
    • Pie and text marks
    • Headers
    • Forecasts, trends, and reference lines
    • Page history trails 
  • Power BI – Microsoft offers a package of visualizations that come default with animation. Under the visualization section, we have to click on ‘Get more visuals’. From the dialog box hence opened we can search for Animated charts and ‘Add’ to the visualization section according to our dashboard needs. The only limitation stands, the given basket of pre-animated visualizations.
  • Dundas BI - It is an end-to-end Business Intelligence platform that allows users to create dashboards, report, and tell stories with the slideshows feature. There is a provision for presenting the insights by the use of live interactive data views which amalgamates the dashboards, and scorecards. A note can also be added on top of the data visualizations.
  • Flourish – Yet another software that allows creating visualizations. The boon is, that there will be no additional pressure on your device as it needs no installation. It can be directly connected through the web browser. All that it needs is, to upload a spreadsheet, connect it to the live source, or integrate it with the API. Additionally, it allows customizing themes as per organization guidelines. Other benefits include no fear of losing the project if published and it can be viewed from any device
  • Visme – This can also be used online without any installation. However, the platform is limited to creating visuals with exact data. To explain, no calculation or data molding can be done in the interface for creating a visualization.
  • Adobe – An extensive design platform. Dashboards and stories created are of higher visual quality and aesthetics. It needs some expertise in using the software in order to get the desired design.  


As the market and desire for data visualization grow, storytelling will become a competition. It is not an inherent skill and shall be developed in time through extensive analysis and comprehension of data in hand. Tools at the disposal are only able to create the projectable format of our thinking. The real power of visualization and storytelling lies within the user and the above technicalities is some light to their thoughts.

About Viz-CoE

With an intention to lead the way in exploring and adopting new technologies, tools, techniques, or practices in the area of visualization, RoundSqr has kick-started a new initiative called “Viz-CoE”, Visualization Center of Excellence. Contributions from our subject matter experts, clients, partners, industry leaders, colleagues, and interns through perspectives, training courses, success stories, and opinions bring this initiative to life.