Most Popular Explainer Video Styles

So you’re on the market for a sleek marketing video that will entice viewers to beat down your door in a rush to give you their money.

But when it comes to picking a style for your explainer video, there are a lot of options to choose from… which one is the best fit for your company?

The answer really depends on the personality of your brand, and what you are trying to accomplish with the video. Sit back as we explore the most popular animation styles out there, and uncover some dirty secrets that will help you pick a winning visual strategy.

Vector Style

Vector animations use a combination of clean shapes, fonts, and textures to create an engaging visual experience that flows from beginning to end. This style is perfect for companies that need a more serious and professional tone and visuals that are custom fit to match an existing brand. Humor is certainly still possible, but overall the style feels less cartoonish and more polished than some of the others. Here is an example we recently completed:

3D / Motion Graphics Style

Videos that use a lot of 3D are great for technical subjects that can benefit from a more concrete approach, but may be too visually detailed and thus distracting for most applications. To solve this, a lot of 3D videos integrate vector style graphics to create a blend known as motion graphics that is more balanced. Great for a technical feel, these animations can be very sanitized and medical, or very grungy and dark.  Here is a really cool video produced by Patrick Clair.

Cartoon Style

Cartoon style videos are fun to watch and lend themselves to a simple and light-hearted aesthetic. They often feature exaggerated characters, upbeat narrations, and bright colors. For more consumer facing companies that want to be trendy and relatable, this could be a good choice. Many of these videos have a pseudo hand-drawn feel, though that is not a requirement to fit the category. Here is a fun example we recently produced for the Apartment Sign Portal.  

Live Action Style    

Live action videos primarily use real footage of people demonstrating a product combined with simple screen captures, or animations. Footage of real people achieves an emotional connection with viewers that animation simply can’t, but because everyone is so used to tuning out commercials - these may not be the best approach to keep people watching. That said they are hard to beat when it comes to demonstrating products. Example produced by Brett Marty.

Sketchy Whiteboard Style

No discussion of explainer videos would be complete without mentioning whiteboard videos. As the name suggests, these videos appear to be drawn out on a whiteboard, blackboard, or paper in sync to the narration. Sometimes they are done with a time-lapse effect where you can see the artist working, other times they are completely created on a computer and play out in real time. This style is best for explaining longer or more complex messages because people associate whiteboards with learning, and they are often more affordable to produce. The downside is that they are not very professional. Example produced by the now famous RSA Animate group.

So what is right for you?

Start by identifying what is most important for your brand: credibility, simplicity, humor, or something else. That should help you eliminate a few options, then consider which visual style will fit with your existing brand the best. Finally, decide if the visual styles left will impact how effectively you are able to communicate your message. From there it should be a pretty easy choice.