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Eleanor Lutz at Malofiej 23

The power of gifs as a scientific communication tool

March 24, 2015
Eleanor Lutz at Malofiej 23

If Monica’s Serrano keynote was a visual feast of illustration and visualization, the following presentation was set to show how this powerful combination can be taken to the next level. 22 year-old Eleanor Lutz gained the respect and admiration of the data visualization community with her animated graphics in such a short time, that the expectation among those familiar with her work was really high.

Full-time freelance designer, since July 2014, Eleanor’s clients already include The National Geographic, The World Book Encyclopedia, The Huffington Post, Adobe, Threadless, and Visually. From March 2011 to June 2014, she was a student researcher in Dr. Jeff Riffell’s lab at the University of Washington. B.S. Cellular, Molecular, & Developmental Biology with departmental Honors and a Chemistry Minor.

Her impressive work with gifs has been featured in articles at The Washington Post, Fast Company, Wired, Gizmodo, Colossal, Buzzfeed, PopSci, International Business Times – and of course, here on Visualoop, for several times.

Eleanor started her presentation by telling what drove her to learn infographic design as a way of better communicating scientific phenomena and processes. What she found when she was researching was either too complex – and aesthetically miserable – or too simple, almost childish. Until she found the work of Jacob O’Neal, and in particular his showcase of “animagraphs”.

Animagrafs, by Jacob O'Neal
Animagrafs, by Jacob O’Neal

But Eleanor also warns to the fact that animated Gifs are not always the best option to produce insightful visualizations. She showed an example of that situation in her animated chart of 42 North American butterflies animated poster. Basically, if you can pause you animated gif and it still makes sense, then you didn’t need the animation in the first place.

An animated chart of 42 North American butterflies

Other examples that Eleanor showed, including her favorite work so far, and the tutorial on how to make these animated gifs:

How to build a human

Tabletop Whale's guide to making GIFs

Flight videos deconstructed

And below, some of the reactions on Twitter to Eleanor’s presentation:

Visit Eleanor’s website, Tabletop Whale, and follow her updates on Twitter (@eleanor_lutz) – and stay tuned for more Malofiej23!

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.