Animations and video work by capturing your attention. It’s one of the key components of advertising, brand and marketing communications, yet it’s a very basic ability that’s probably helped humans evolve over millions of years.  It’s the facility to focus on a particular item in our environment and ignore all the rest.

An important visual component is movement. In a static world, a small action or activity easily attracts attention – it may indicate the presence of a threat – or a potential meal.

It’s vital to animals’ survival. Notice how creatures freeze if the feel a threat around, or watch a cat stalking prey and see how it will remain patiently motionless before pouncing.

When it’s good to be noticed

Okay, now let’s consider it from the other direction. If we want to be noticed or grab attention, we can employ movement.

Animations and video immediately spark our awareness and catch the eye – quite simply, we are hard-wired for it. Broadcast and online communications score over print, because they can make use of moving images.

The same is true for learning, presentations and explanations. If you want your viewers to attend – make your media move.

Functional animation helps retain that attention and confirm that ‘things are happening.’ For example a button that moves when pressed, an item moving into a shopping cart or a ‘success’ popup at the end of a quiz.

One word of warning – don’t overdo it, or it can be counterproductive. While movement stands out in a mainly static environment, consider a crowded street or shopping centre where everyone is moving about. You may see a friend and it can be really hard to grab their attention where the whole environment is in motion.

But in a static world that flash of movement can be used as a real visual focus.