Digital Splash Media Animated Explanation Videos & Visual Explanations Wed, 16 Apr 2014 00:28:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Free Health Icon – DNA Molecule Wed, 16 Apr 2014 00:28:04 +0000 Free Infographic-style Health & Tech Icons & Pictograms

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any new free icons or pictograms. I’ve had this one sitting around for awhile.

DNA Molecule Icon


Download DNA Molecule Icon (.zip)

Feel free to download and use in presentation, brochures, websites, whatever. Free for commercial or non-commercial. Attribution is nice, but optional (though a nice shout-out tweet to @digitalsplash would be great). Available to download as .zip file which includes PNG image (.png) and Adobe Illustrator (.ai) formats.

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Visual Communication Tip: Memory Recall Improves When Visuals are Used Fri, 11 Apr 2014 21:25:59 +0000 Humans are visual beings. 90% of information transmitted to our brains is visual. Our brains process visuals significantly faster than they do text. Humans have innate abilities for visual perception, to make sense of complexity with relatively little cognitive load. Yet, many business still rely on text-based communication and explanations. Communicating and explaining with visuals can radically improve comprehension and retention and help people get to that “Aha!” moment faster.

Retention of information increases dramatically when visuals are used, due to the Picture Superiority Effect. The picture superiority effect, or pictorial superiority effect is the term that resulted from experiments that have shown that in human memory recall, pictures outperform text dramatically. As the video above shows, when information is presented orally, after 3 days, people will only remember 10% of it. But if pictures are added, memory recall improves to 65%.*

PSE-01 PSE-02 PSE-03

* Nelson, D.L., Reed, U.S., & Walling, J.R. (1976). Pictorial superiority effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory, 2, 523-528.


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Behind the Scenes: Visuals Ideation & Storyboard Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:46:21 +0000 There’s a lot that goes on when making an animated explanation video. I’ve shared overviews of the video process and detailed step-by-step guides in creating videos in the past, but I thought it might be informative for businesses to ride along during the video creation process.

While working on the Heart Disease video I published last week, I came across several good articles on the benefits of walking and had the idea to create another short 30 second public service message video to promote the benefits of walking. In taking notes, I came up with the following very short, very simple script (to give credit where it’s due, I believe that the gist of this script came from the Everybody Walk website, but I’m not finding the exact page or text).

- Walk for Better Health -
30 minutes of walking 5x per week
Improves health and longevity
Reduces the risk of coronary disease
Helps lower blood pressure
Increases bone density
and reduces cholesterol
Take time to walk!

At only 35 words, that should be good for my target of a 30 second video. The normal rule of thumb that I tell people is to plan that 75 words of script will equate to about 30 seconds of video. But that’s for video with narration and since this video won’t have narration, I want a little extra time for people to read the text to account for a wide range of viewer reading levels.

 Visuals Ideation

With a script in hand, the first thing I do is print it out and go outside with the script and a sketchbook and just doodle to come up with visual ideas for the video. These sketches and doodles are very rough and I generally don’t share them with clients. They’re just a visual brainstorm. Not worrying about the quality of sketch allows me to just capture the basic idea without judging how something doesn’t really resemble what it’s supposed. Have a look at these sketches below to see just how rough they are.

Walking-PSA-Sketch-01 Walking-PSA-Sketch-02 Walking-PSA-Sketch-03 Walking-PSA-Sketch-04


The visual ideation stage is just meant for visually capturing ideas on paper. Not all the ideas will get used. Sometimes visual ideas will ultimately get combined or morph into something else. But once I have a set of visuals that support the script, I’ll capture the visual ideas in a rough, hand-drawn storyboard that also includes some notes on animations and transitions. Below is a quick and simple storyboard for my Walking PSA video.


Click image to enlarge

As you can see, like the visual ideation sketches, this is very simple. This particular storyboard is a bit simpler than I would use to coordinate with a client. For a client animated video I would want to add more detail and refinement in order to communicate the intended action. But, when you’re working on your own video project, this level unsophisticated storyboard should be just fine. In fact, I purposely made this storyboard so simple to prove a point – that you don’t have to have great artistic abilities to create a storyboard. These are just very simple stick figures, but they convey what’s going to happen in this short video.

The next stage in the development process is to create the visual elements digitally and then stage them. I’ll share that in the next installment.


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Heart Disease Facts PSA Video Wed, 02 Apr 2014 18:00:34 +0000 Heart disease is the leading causes of death in the US. This short Public Service Announcement video shows that 80% of heart disease deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes like getting more exercise and being more physically active.

Heart Disease Facts PSA Video Support Page

This video is available without the Digital Splash Media watermark and closing link for free for a limited time to digital health businesses and other health organizations.

Get the Unbranded Version of the Video

* indicates required

If you’re interested in your own custom version of this video, please contact me.


Heart disease is the leading causes of death in the US.
24% of deaths in 2010
Yet 80% of cardiovascular disease deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.
Diet, alcohol, smoking, exercise & physical activity
Those who are most physically active have lower heart disease death rates.
Reduce your risk of heart disease death!
Get up! Get more active!


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Tutorial: How to Make Scatter Plot in Adobe Illustrator Sun, 30 Mar 2014 20:34:48 +0000 I’m a big fan of scatter plots and bubble plots, as can be seen from several small data visualization articles showing health correlations lately. They’re both great for showing correlations. There’s some nice new online tools for creating scatter and bubble plots like Plotly and RAW, both of which I use regularly. But, when it comes to styling the plots, I still find myself using Adobe Illustrator. About a year ago, I wrote an article on VizThinker about how to create scatter plots in in Illustrator and I thought it might be useful to turn that into downloadable PDF. I’ve revised my method lately to take advantage of functionality in Plotly and RAW, but I’ll save that for a separate tutorial.

Tutorial: How to Make Scatter Plot in Adobe Illustrator (PDF Download)


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Visualizing Heart Disease Correlations in the US and EU Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:29:13 +0000 According to the World Health Organization cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally. More people die annually from cardiovascular diseases than from any other cause.
An estimated 17.3 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2008, representing 30% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease. In the US, heart disease accounted for 24% of all deaths in 2010. Yet 80% of heart disease deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes such as physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking.

Heart Disease Death & Obesity/Overweight Correlation to Physical Activity Levels in the U.S.

In the United States there is a strong correlation between physical activity levels and heart disease death rates as the bubble chart below shows. The most physically active populations by state, such as Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon have much lower heart disease death rates than states with low physical activity levels such as Tennessee and Mississippi. The size of the bubbles in this chart relates to the rate of obesity and overweight for each state. For the statistics geeks out there, the Pearson correlation coefficient for the physical activity levels and heart disease death rate in this dataset is -0.73, indicating a strong correlation.


Cardiovascular Disease Death & Obesity Correlation to Physical Activity Levels, US, Canada, EU


Looking at Western EU nations along with the US and Canada, we can see a different picture, where the correlation between physical activity levels and heart disease death rates is not nearly as strong.

Note about the Data

Note that in the first image for the US, the bubble sizes were percentage of adults who are obese or overweight, whereas in the following plot, the bubble sizes are just representing obesity rate and does not include those who are considered overweight but not obese. Also, the data for heart disease and cardiovascular disease came from two different sources. In the first plot of just the US, the heart disease data came from the Kaiser Family Foundation website.  In the second plot the data, including the data for the US, came from the World Health Organization website.

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Connected Scatter Plot Health Visualizations Tue, 25 Mar 2014 17:22:59 +0000 Continuing my latest pursuit of data visualization exploration of health risk factors, it didn’t occur to me until after I had finished my animated scatter plot of sugar – BMI correlation that I could have done a static visual representation of that with a connected scatter plot. In these connected scatter plots, each dot represents a year for a country’s sugar consumption (x axis) and Body Mass Index (BMI) (y axis) and connecting the dots for a country results in a trail of their history for those variables.

Most connected scatter plots I’ve seen usually focus on one “trail” of data points. Representing 14 distinct countries in this visualization resulted in jumbled mess of dots and lines in the middle of the chart where most of the EU countries data sits. As a result, I decided to export multiple plots – small multiples – highlighting each EU country plus another to highlight the US and Canada.

US and Canada Connected Scatter Plot of Sugar Consumption to Average Body Mass Index – 1980 – 2004


Notice how Canada tracked with most EU countries for the first decade or so, but then broke free from emulating the EU and joined the US in a rapid rise in sugar consumption.

European Nations Connected Scatter Plots of Sugar Consumption to Average Body Mass Index – 1980 – 2004

For the 12 western EU nations represented in the data set, here’s a gallery of small multiples. Click on an image to see the full size.

United Kingdom Switzerland Sweden Spain Portugal Norway The Netherlands Italy Germany France Belgium Austria


For those interested in learning more about connected scatter plots, check out Alberto Cairo’s article, In praise of connected scatter plots.

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Data Viz: Inactivity vs Sugar – Correlation to Obesity Rates Mon, 24 Mar 2014 20:06:16 +0000 Which health risk factor, physical inactivity or sugar consumption, is more closely correlated to rising obesity rates in the US, Canada, and western EU? To explore this, I collected health data from the World Health Organization (obesity data and physical inactivity data) and the GapMinder Foundation (sugar consumption data). I’ve explored the sugar consumption data in previous articles so I wanted to see how physical inactivity correlated to rising obesity rates.

Physical Inactivity Correlation to Obesity Rate


The US is the most obese country in this data set. What was surprising to me is how inactive the UK is. This might help explain why they’re the second highest obesity rate in this data set despite having a relatively low sugar consumption.

Sugar Consumption Correlation to Obesity Rate


It’s a bit difficult to make any clear judgements about direct correlation of either of these two variables to obesity rate. There are likely several more variables at play. But what I notice here is the countries with the lowest obesity rates; Italy, France, Sweden, and The Netherlands.  The Netherlands for example has fourth highest sugar consumption but perhaps that is offset by being the most physically active in the data set. Italy is the second-most inactive country in this data set but they also have the lowest sugar consumption. So, it seems possible that a combination of these two variables together has a higher correlation to obesity rate than either separately.

Next step in this series of data visualizations is to look at heart disease and cancer mortality as they correlate to various risk factors.

Here’s the raw dataset if anyone is interested in exploring more on their own – such as this one from @Biff_Bruise.

Country	Obesity Rate	Sugar Consumption	Physical Inactivity
United States of America	31.8	191.78	40.5
Germany	21.3	123.29	28
France	15.6	109.59	33
United Kingdom	24.9	112.33	66.5
Italy	17.2	84.93	54.7
Canada	24.3	172.6	35.7
Spain	24.1	93.15	52.1
Netherlands	16.2	142.47	18.2
Sweden	16.6	128.77	47.1
Norway	19.8	120.55	44.2
Belgium	19.1	150.69	42.7
Austria	18.3	123.29	34.8
Portugal	21.6	93.15	51

Data Sources

Sugar Consumption – GapMinder - 2004

Obesity Data – Prevalence of obesity, BMI ≥ 30 World Health Organization – 2008

Percentage of defined population with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher. Based on measured height and weight. Definition source.

Physical Inactivity Data – Prevalence of insufficient physical activity World Health Organization – 2008

Percent of defined population attaining less than 5 times 30 minutes of moderate activity per week, or less than 3 times 20 minutes of vigorous activity per week, or equivalent. Based on self-reported physical activity captured using the GPAQ (Global Physical Activity Questionnaire), the IPAQ (International Physical Activity Questionnaire) or a similar questionnaire covering activity at work/in the household, for transport, and during leisure time. Definition source.

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Animated Health Visualization: Sugar Consumption-BMI Tue, 18 Mar 2014 18:47:47 +0000 Following up on last week’s data visualization of Sugar Consumption & BMI in US, Canada, & EU, I pursued the animated scatter plot that shows the correlation of sugar consumption to BMI for the US, Canada, and several western EU countries from 1980 to 2004. This short video shows just how drastically the US outpaces the EU in sugar consumption and BMI increases over time a 24 year period.


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Roundup of Recent Research & Reads Sun, 16 Mar 2014 20:43:52 +0000 A roundup of interesting reads and research on digital health, visual communication, health visualizations, and creativity.

Digital Health

Digital Life in 2025
Pew Research Internet Project
Experts to make their own predictions about the state of digital life by the year 2025. “Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.”

The Monitored Man
New York Times
Albert Sun reports on his experience with multiple wearable activity trackers. 

New ‘Wello’ iPhone Case Measures Blood Pressure, Temperature and More
A new iPhone case promises digital health sensors to monitor your vital signs.

Visual Communication

How to Turn Your Mindless Doodles into Productivity Enhancers
Fast Company
Use visual language to work more creatively & productively

Learn how to spread ideas with effective visual documents. Slidedocs are visual documents, developed in presentation software, that are intended to be read and referenced instead of projected.

Health Visualizations

A couple of interesting health visualizations I hadn’t seen before.

Diseasome: The Human Disease Network
The map presents a network of diseases linked by known disorder–gene associations, indicating the common genetic origin of many diseases.

Health InfoScape
By combing through 7.2 million of their electronic medical records, GE Data Visualization created a disease network to help illustrate relationships between various conditions and how common those connections are.


I’m always on the lookout for articles on creativity and a couple of new ones popped up on my radar this past week.

Why We’re More Creative When We’re Tired, and 9 Other Surprising Things about How Brains Work
Fast Company

4 Lessons in Creativity from John Cleese
Fast Company
The legendary writer and actor has become a speaker on creativity and how to cultivate it. He recently shared the best ways to put yourself in a creative state of mind.

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