Animation Works like Magic

Nancy Duarte

Written by

Nancy Duarte

One of the guys who came through our workshop is a magician. Really. It’s not his “real job” but he finds ways to apply the principles to his work-life. Here are his thoughts:

Larger movement conceals a smaller movement: When two objects are in motion, the eye is attracted to the object  with the bigger (faster, longer distance) motion, rendering the smaller motion invisible. If a magician wants to secretly place an object on a table, he may use his right hand to push a different object across the table from him, while using his left hand to add the new object to the table. The large movement (the magician leaning forward with the right hand going away from the body) covers the small one (left hand placing a new object).

As applied to slides, it usually means that moving two objects should be avoided, as one object will typically have a weaker motion that will go unnoticed. I once witnessed a developer at Macworld present an animated bar graph to show how much more time his competitor took to complete a task; the end point of each horizontal bar was the logo representing the respective products.  Even though it showed his product was three time faster (represented by a bar that was a third of the size), the focus was on his competitor’s logo as it zipped across the screen.

The first animation below is a great example of how the orange circle is dominant because it moves more quickly. You can download this file as a PPT file. Click on #188 here.

Eyes control attention: If a magician wants to take the focus away from his hands, he will look out at his audience. The audience will look up as well, and connect with the magician, missing the action being performed by his hands. A person’s focus tends to be drawn to a face that is focused on them. For example, presenters need to look square into the faces of the audience. It’s a good thing to engage them so deeply that they don’t notice the slight-of-slides behind you. Facing the people and leaning forward will draw audience focus.

As applied to slides, you can use photos of people who are looking straight at the camera. The subjects shouldn’t have a creepy stare, but good eye contact is alluring and also builds a sense of trust. It reflects confidence.