A Complete Guide to Creating Animated Information Graphics
2.7 (30 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
277 students enrolled

A Complete Guide to Creating Animated Information Graphics

From conception, to storyboard, to animating with Maya 3D. Learn to make effective 3D animated information graphics.
2.7 (30 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
277 students enrolled
Created by Graham Roberts
Last updated 12/2015
English [Auto]
Current price: $29.99 Original price: $49.99 Discount: 40% off
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This course includes
  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • plan and design an animated information graphic project
  • model, animate, and render in 3D
  • explore data in 3D
  • Trial version of Autodesk Maya
  • An interest in visual storytelling
  • simple tools for storyboarding

This is a two part class.

In part 1 you'll learn how to create information graphics that use data and reveal stories through animation. You'll learn how to go from data/reporting to an engaging and animated information graphic.

What you will learn

  • An overview of the approach to starting with a set of data and assets
  • Figuring out the story and whats important or interesting about the data
  • Creating a hierarchy of interesting elements and an organizational scheme
  • Writing a script
  • Creating the final storyboard

We'll also cover things like best practices and some tips to keep in mind as you work on your project.

What you will make

Students will make a storyboard for an animated information graphic.

In part 2 you will get started on how to model, render, animate, and visualize data using the power of 3-dimensional design, and give a foundational overview of the 3D software package, Autodesk Maya. Graham has been using this software to create a wide variety of information design projects at The New York Times, and will relate these skills to work created in the journalism environment and beyond.

What you will learn

  • The Maya interface
  • How to model in 3D
  • How to animate in 3D
  • How to render in 3D
  • How to use data in 3D

  • What you will make

    Students will model, render, and animate a simple thermos as a way to learn the fundamentals.


    This class is for anyone interested in data, information graphics, animation, and visual storytelling. If you are a designer, journalist, animator or simply interested in how this kind of work comes together, this class is for you!

    Who this course is for:
    • designers
    • journalists
    • visual storytellers
    • interested in 3D
    • interested in data
    Course content
    Expand all 17 lectures 01:54:19
    + Using data and motion to reveal the story
    8 lectures 28:45

    Welcome to Animated Information Graphics! By the end of this class you will know how to plan these projects in full, as well as a tool, Maya, to execute your ideas.

    Preview 01:49

    1. Choose your story carefully. Consider what kind of story will benefit from visual explanation in order to be best understood. This could be anything from a major recent news event, to a local infrastructure project, to a historical look at a topic. I also find that sports and science topics are good places to look because of an abundance of readily available statistical data.
    2. File away visual ideas. Don't jump too early to decide the form your graphic should take. Wait until you have fully reported the topic and let the reportage guide you.
    Preview 03:24

  • 1. Report broadly on your topicTry to learn everything you can about your topic, and only then begin to consider the kind of more specific reporting you will need for your visual approach.
  • 2. Find sourcesDetermine the kinds of expert sources, technical sources, and data sources that can later provide the level of detail you will likely need for your visual explanation.
  • Preview 03:21

  • Find the best angle for your explanation. What element of the story can be best illuminated through the use of a visual explanation?
  • Think of ways to make your presentation visually exciting and engaging. This is a great place to demonstrate your unique vision. Find a unique and clarifying way to organize your presentation.
  • Focus on clarityBring to the surface, out of the noise, the signal, or all of the points that matter, that are revealing, and that are interesting.
  • Preview 04:16

  • Determine what you will need to create your project. If you are working with an architectural scene, for example, can you settle for photo reference to get the right general look, or do you need a level of detail that requires architectural plans or even CAD models? If you are collecting a data set, will you need a specific, narrow time frame, or will you require data across all time?
  • Collect and Organize your data / assets. A good source for 3D models to play around with: http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/
    Consider learning about data scraping: http://www.propublica.org/nerds/item/upton-a-web-scraping-framework
  • Clean up the data / assetsYour data and assets may need some preparation or cleaning before they are in a useful form.
  • Collect data and assets

  • Decide what is most important. It is unlikely that everything you have collected is interesting or of equal importance in telling the story you want to tell.
  • Create an organizational structure. The points you make will all benefit from a clear organizational structure and order, and from being carefully considered in the context of one another.
    Don't say to your audience, "here is some data, I hope you find something interesting."
  • Curate the information. Think carefully about the way you build up the story visually. Is there continuity? Are you drawing attention to everything flatly, or do you have a clear hierarchy that is easy to follow.
  • Create a hierarchy
    1. Decide about language presentation. Determine if you need a voiceover or not, and consider any annotations you may need as part of your visuals.
    2. Edit tightly. Be as clear and functional with you language as you would hope to be with the visual.
    Write a script

  • Consider the flow of your project. The flow and pacing you establish in this step will help you find out if the hierarchy you established is working or not.
  • Consider the arc of your narrative. What shape does the arc of your narrative take.
    Does it want to:
    • bring an idea full circle,
    • or is it a compare and contrast between two or more ideas.
    • Maybe it has multiple threads that should ultimately converge,
    • or perhaps it should build cumulatively until it reveals a final whole.
    It will help you to have an overarching structure in mind as you begin to storyboard.
  • Create a storyboard templateHow you lay out your storyboard is ultimately up to personal preference, but however it is presented, it should generally include these 3 things per frame:- a visual preview of the moment. This can be anything from a crude pencil sketch to a screen grab of a 3D scene. Whatever allows you to think your best.- a visual description. Even though you have an image you often will need more to explain the idea. It could be a camera move, a transition, or a clarification of what the moment should eventually look like. And keep in mind that if yours is a collaborative project, this can be an important tool of communication of what the project will ultimately be. Someone just coming to the project will likely need more than the image to understand.- the portion of your script that the frame corresponds to. This is the merging of your script with the visuals so it should be included.
  • Create a storyboard
    + Creating and animating with Maya 3D
    9 lectures 01:25:35

    1. Download and install a trial version of Maya


    Interface overview

    Practice using the different modeling tools.

    In this lesson we examine a number of modeling tools that will allow you to create a wide range of geometry.

    1. This includes:
      • editing by component
      • face extrusion
      • boolean operations
      • sculpt geometry tools
      • cut faces tools
      Practice using each of these tools, before moving on to the next video.
    Basic Modeling

    Model an object

    Follow along with the video to create a model of a typical coffee thermos, or use the techniques you learn to create a model of your choosing.

    Model a thermos

    Practice using the different animation tools.

    In this video we learn the fundamental tools for creating animations in Maya.

    1. This includes:
      • how to create keyframe based animation
      • using the graph editor
      • animation layers
      • creating playblast previews
      • beginner rigging
      • using cameras
      Practice using these animations tools and techniques before moving on to the next video.
    Basic Animation

    Using the class model, or a model of your own, use the animation techniques learned in these videos to create your own animation.

    Then, create a playblast of this animation and share it with the class.

    Be creative!

    Animating the thermos

    Practice using the different rendering options.

    1. In these videos, we learn a variety of rendering techniques including:
      • adding shaders to your model
      • manipulating textures
      • adding lights and cameras to the scene
      • maya software renderer, mental ray renderer, and vector renderer
      • working with render layers
      Practice all of these tools and methods before moving on to the next video.
    Basic Rendering

    Using the class model, or a model of your own creation, add shaders, textures, and lighting and create some renderings.

    Then share these images with the class.


    Output a frame sequence of an animation, and compile these frames into a quicktime video, and share the video with the class.

    Rendering the thermos

    Familiarize yourself with code in Maya

    1. Experiment with using MEL to create, and manipulate objects in Maya.Try creating and then manipulating an object as we learned in earlier videos, then look at the script editor and see how Maya expressed these actions in code.Then create a small program using these instructions to recreate yoru actions using code alone.Share your MEL code with the class along with some screenshots showing what the code produced.
    Data in 3D