Case studies are discussed, from Northumbria University’s practice-led Centre for Design Research (CfDR) that demonstrate how visualising concepts and designs through digital animation can enable effective communication of ideas and interactions, which in turn enables creative leaps in thinking, understanding and decision-making. Animation is a tool that can unlock the comprehension into what is and what could be. This paper reflects on a number of collaborative projects between the CfDR and several scientific communities, demonstrating and focusing in particular on the process of visualisation, designing digital animations to communicate complex processes, ideas and interactions. An approach and understanding has been developed about how to effectively communicate potentially complex, scientific and technical concepts for the benefit of the client and the end user, in particular the lay audience whose knowledge of the subject may be limited or non-existing.
Findings indicate that the process of constructing simple digital animated stories becomes a learning process for both designer and client. Critical discussions during collaborative meetings develop shared understandings: helping clients to think more creatively about communication (appreciating the benefits of manipulating a truth to position to waylay contextual confusion), and making implicit knowledge belonging to the client explicit to the designer. It is important to state that this negotiation is more effective when the designer is a layperson with respect to the complex implicit knowledge of the client. During these collaborative conditions the untangling of complex ideas have achieve the a-ha moments in the animations’ audiences.