Using animation to tell sensitive stories

Animated videos are a really effective way to tell stories that include challenging or confronting topics in a sensitive yet impactful way.

Working with not-for-profit and healthcare organisations we are often telling stories that touch on sensitive or confronting topics. These stories are an essential part of our work as they help people feel less alone and shine a light on important issues. Topics that can be challenging to communicate include traumatic experiences or events, mental health issues, childhood trauma or physical health issues.

Telling these stories requires a sensitivity and nuance to advocate for survivors, avoid imagery that is too graphic and ensure participants and viewers are not overwhelmed by the content.

At Laundry Lane we have extensive experience with a variety of sensitive storytelling and want to share our expertise in this area. Our approach is all about bringing heart to everything we do and that includes being empathetic and sensitive in our storytelling. Animation, motion graphics and illustration all take time and care, allowing our team to focus on bringing heart to everything we do. Utilising animation as a communication tool in video enables us to tell these stories in a digestible, engaging way.

We interviewed our animation and motion graphics director, Jonty De Klerk to discuss how and why our team uses animation for storytelling.

Jonty De Klerk

Animation & Motion Graphics Director

Could you touch on what animation is in terms of storytelling? 

Animation can be used to communicate complicated information in simple ways, it can be used to explain things, visualise things, bring brands to life, and tell stories that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to tell simply by interviewing or filming people. It can be used for explanatory and educational purposes, entertainment purposes, storytelling, and so on.

How can we use animation to tell potentially sensitive stories?

We can use animation, especially character design or visual communication to tell stories, in an appealing way. Particularly in cases where people might not want to tell their stories on camera or in person. We can take someone’s account of a traumatic event or a situation and turn that into an engaging script and visualise that in an interesting way to communicate the story. You can also use different storytelling devices to communicate different emotions and periods of time in a person’s life.

You can also use animation to visualise different parts of the world without travelling to them. So for example if someone is a refugee from Afghanistan or the Middle East where we wouldn’t necessarily be able to travel to, to film, to tell their story we can use illustration to create and establish the mood of where they have come from and where they are going.

You can also do this in film, but particularly with animated and illustrative storytelling you can always, it’s a lot easier to communicate the story whilst preserving peoples anonymity should they want to remain anonymous.

How do you make stylistic choices if you’re telling someone’s personal story?

It would be very much based on their story, who they are and where they come from. We would use the person and their background as a starting point for our research. So their nationality, their ethnicity, their culture, their language and so on, and that would be the starting point that would inform the stylistic exploration and journey.

How do you make sure the intended emotions come through when you’re using animation?

Voice over and music are big drivers of that so your sound design and audio treatment of the video. And then the illustration style as well, using tone and texture, colour and different illustration techniques to establish a visual mood to accompany the story, that’s going to help drive the story. So whether that’s using darkness or light tones to establish a mood or a vibe.

Are there any animation styles you think are more effective for this kind of storytelling?

Yeah, it is more effective to use more illustrative styles, so using organic textures and tones and more of a hand drawn personal feel as opposed to a more clean and explanatory style.

Some of our work in this area.

This animation tells the story of Pip, a young girl who faced significant hardship and was able to find a safe home through Stepping Stone House. Animation allowed us to share this story in a way that allows Pip to remain anonymous but still allows viewers to really connect to her and understand her experiences through visualisation, tone and sound.

This animation tells the stories of two refugees’ experiences that forced them to flee their homes and how they made their way to Australia. The animation depicts the experiences through illustration and was created as part of a training resource for STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation or Torture and Trauma Survivors).

Storytelling is an integral part of our work in communications and video and animation provides a number of communication benefits particularly when it comes to telling sensitive stories.. See more work by Laundry Lane here 

By Amelia Balken, Marketing and Digital Manager at Laundry Lane

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