When whiteboard animation burst onto the scene over ten years ago, most people thought it was a fad. Yet even in the digital age of 3D animation, CGI, VR, and even augmented reality, the unmistakable clarity and simplicity of whiteboard videos continues to engage millions of viewers, year after year.
We’ve been making explainer videos for over a decade, and whiteboard videos are still popular for one simple reason—they work. So to help you better understand the power of whiteboard animation, here are our favorite picks for the best whiteboard animation from the past 12 years.
In this piece, we’re shedding light on some of our favorite whiteboard videos that have shaped the practice, and taking a glimpse into what the future of whiteboard animation could be.
Hitchhiker’s Choice (2006)
It’s difficult to place the start and popularity of whiteboard animated video. However, the earliest example of awesome whiteboard animation is from 2006—just one year after YouTube was founded. Animation student Kristopher Strom created this short whiteboard stop motion video for a fun project. To date, this video has over 5 million views, and people keep coming back for more. Oh, and the music’s pretty catchy, too.
UPS: Whiteboard Freight (2007)
So, this video doesn’t follow the traditional “whiteboard animation” style per se, but as you’ll see, we’re all about celebrating the unique ways whiteboard animation has been interpreted to create bold and captivating campaigns. UPS was doing it over a decade ago with this wildly successful TV ad campaign (and accompanying online videos) that catapulted the brand’s identity and standing in the disruptive delivery space. This whiteboard video also helped set the stage for the whiteboard explainer explosion that followed in the years to come.
The Marker Maker (2010)
If “Hitchhiker’s Choice” was one of the first whiteboard animations on YouTube, this animation by Jonny Lawrence has to be one of the most famous. The 2.5 minute video went viral on YouTube back in 2010, thanks to the combination of real-life whiteboard animation and stop motion (he’s actually drawing every frame on a real whiteboard with a marker). The effect is magical. Add perfectly timed music and inspiring voiceover, and it’s no wonder that this beautiful whiteboard animation has over 2.3 million views.
RSA Animates: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2010)
With over 16 million views on YouTube (and counting), this longform whiteboard animation became one of the first bona fide viral video sensations, and spearheaded the popularity of the RSA-style animation technique we know today. What’s amazing about RSA style is that it takes what can often be mundane topics and bring their narratives to life through stunning visual narratives accompanied by a lecture-style voiceover.
This particular video is based on a talk given by Dan Pink. It’s long, dry, complicated, and technical, but whiteboard animation makes all of Pink’s points come to life. The animation and visual representation of the talking points communicates better than simply a video of a speech ever could. And people noticed.
23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? (2011)
On the topic of RSA-style whiteboard animation, we can’t help but mention this brilliant piece from Dr. Mike Evans. This whiteboard explainer video breaks down some pretty complicated elements behind healthcare and wellness, and uses animation to turn it into a digestible piece of educational material.
At IdeaRocket, we’ve seen how whiteboard animation in healthcare has evolved since this video was posted. We’re pretty proud of this piece, which turns the complex topic of Diabetes Pathophysiology into a musical metaphor.
Coca-Cola Content 2020: Parts 1 & 2 (2011)
This whiteboard video series, imagined by Jonathan Mildenhall when he was Coca Cola’s VP of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence (he is now CMO of Airbnb), isn’t all that exciting. However, the fact that a major brand like Coca-Cola turned to whiteboard animation for a major internal video says something about the power of animation.
This whiteboard explainer video has over 600,000 views on YouTube. That means it’s been watched, shared, and used heavily by the Coca-Cola marketing and sales team, as well as HR for on-boarding and corporate training. It even caught the eye of the Content Marketing Institute, one of the leading bodies on content marketing practice and tips.
Season 8 Trailer: Weeds (2012)
Explainer videos comes in all shapes and sizes. In 2012, writer-Producer Jenji Kohan was contemplating the 8th and final season of her seminal Showtime comedy Weeds. She wanted to create a new show-open for it that would boil down the narrative of the previous seven seasons into a single short capsule. She came to IdeaRocket for its execution, and we were able to take whiteboard to primetime. This piece was nominated for Best Show-Open at the SXSW Festival.
Mid-Size Sedan Technology – Toyota Camry (2014)
What can you learn about cars in 16 seconds? Quite a bit, if you use whiteboard animation. Toyota used a blend of traditional whiteboard and stop-motion techniques to explain their new blind-spot technology in this short clip from 2014. Though simple, a careful combination of imagery and voiceover helps tell a complete story without too many bells and whistles. This goes to show that you don’t need a lecture to get your point across.
PG&E Energy Efficiency (2014)
Since we’re on the topic of short whiteboard videos that innovate, we should share a 44-second spot we did for PG&E. Just like Purina, this video isn’t quite “traditional.” It uses vector rendering to blend whiteboard animation with a 3D technique. A custom shader was created to reproduce an illustrator’s cross-hatching in CGI. The end effect is a dynamic spot that brings a business proposition (and story) to life.
Raising Her Voice – Oxfam (2014)
As you can see, whiteboard animation can be entertaining, can help explain complex topics, and sell products along the way. Charitable organization Oxfam decided to take a different route and used whiteboard animation to shed light on an important cause. This piece from 2014 uses RSA-style techniques to tell the story of the international battle for women’s rights throughout history, and the many challenges still ahead today. It’s a powerful piece, and definitely worth watching.
ESPN: Why Marshawn will Lead Seahawks to Super Bowl Win (2015)
Sports channel ESPN also took a unique route with this RSA-style whiteboard video. And it’s just plain funny. The clip pokes fun at Marshawn Lynch’s monosyllabic “Yeah” answer, something he’s known to do as he takes on even the most complex of sports questions.
The humor of the whiteboard comes from the situational depiction of the “interview.” Marshawn is in the shower, on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (he says maybe on that one), and all over the locker room. It’s funny, compelling, full of information, and highlights one of the biggest strengths of whiteboard animation—animating “dull” interview segments or tepid voiceover.
Micro-Videos: A Closer Look At Vine
As social media becomes a more powerful tool, we have to take a look at how whiteboard animation has moved beyond YouTube. What better place to do that than Vine. The platform (which is making a comeback in 2018) is hailed for its use of six-second video “loops.” And some whiteboard animators were up to the challenge. Vine contributor Pinoit used his channel to create a set of stunning hand-crafted Vine loops using an array of innovative stop-motion and whiteboard techniques.
Looking ahead: Will VR be the future of whiteboard animation?
Okay, so this isn’t technically a whiteboard animation at all — at least, not like one you’ve ever seen before.This 10-minute video is a demonstration of the “Dry Erase Infinite VR Whiteboard” a game developed by Tom Sanders that lets players virtually create whiteboard designs though their VR headsets — in real time. Skip to minute 6:33 to really see the practice in action, and what it could mean for the future of internal office presentations.
Honorable Mention: Weird Al Yankovic: Mission Statement (2014)
This beautiful satire of whiteboard animation from none other than the lampoon master himself, Weird Al Yankovic, addresses every single trope, trap, and tradition of whiteboard animation. With over 2.7 million views, the lesson from this video is clear: Don’t take yourself (or your corporate communication chain) too seriously.
The Best Whiteboard Animation
There’s just something about whiteboard animation. Watching the animation unfold before you eyes—following that disembodied hand as it draws the next frame. If whiteboard videos continue to deliver suspense, story, and intrigue, these videos will be around for another decade. Check out our whiteboard animation portfolio to see more.