Animated Icons in PowerPoint

its alive

Icons are simplified/stylistic images used in presentations to represent or amplify a concept. Acme Corp. presents its value proposition using animated icons:

I have pontificated about the value of using PowerPoint objects rather than downloaded clip art as icons in an earlier post. Briefly, you can get the precise image you need and the colors and style to match your branding/theme. Also, you can edit them and use them to build new objects.

Why would you want to animate icons? First, motion is a powerful tool for grabbing attention (the old predator-prey thing) and animation can elaborate the actual meaning of the icon. (See this post for more on rational PowerPoint animation.)

Before I show you some additional examples, here are a few guidelines:

  • Keep icons simple. They should be instantly recognizable but, since they are often relatively small, not detailed.
  • Search the internet for inspiration and image ideas. Search for the concept (“security icon”) rather than the object (“lock”) if you want to see other metaphors for the concept. Remember to keep it simple; you don’t need to try to reproduce images created by professional designers.
  • All of the icons shown in the post have been constructed using combinations of PowerPoint Autoshapes with only occasional use of PowerPoint drawing tools.
  • Use your branding/theme colors; occasionally an odd color may be used if it enhances the icon (like the stack of bills in the video above).
  • Use animation that amplifies the concept; think of verbs (locking, growing, etc.) and common visual metaphors (light bulb illuminating for idea, etc.).  However, keep the animation simple; don’t expect too much from PowerPoint.
  • Animate the object for only a short time immediately after it is introduced; repeated animation is distracting and doesn’t add anything. If you use the icon again (for example, to tie later material to the first appearance), don’t animate it.
  • I usually construct icons at a large scale and then reduce the size for the actual presentation. This means that point-measured components will cause problems when reduced (text, line widths, shadow parameters, etc.) . If you use these components, convert to png before reducing.
  • A motion path associated with an object will not scale when the object is resized.  Resize the icon before adding the motion path or edit the path after resizing.

Security Icon (Lock)

The lock icon with the closing hasp represents security as in the Acme presentation above.

The lock is constructed mostly of Autoshapes:


The slotted end of the hasp is constructed from a Rectangle, converted to a Freeform and point-edited.  You can also use the Shape Subtract tool in PowerPoint 2010.

Here’s the lock with the shapes filled (with brand colors, naturally). The elements of the hasp and the elements of the body form two Groups.


Although it’s not strictly necessary in this case, I’m going to show you a way to accurately set the end point of a motion path.  The idea is to duplicate the object, move the duplicate to the desired location, and set Drawing Guides to the center of the duplicate.  A motion path can then be defined and edited so that the endpoint is located at the center of the duplicate.  Here’s what the construction looks like for the lock (the duplicate is in red outline):


The complete animation includes the Fade In of the body and hasp, followed by the motion path. The Smooth End box is unchecked so that the hasp “snaps” into place. Here’s what the animation pane looks like:lock4

As I noted above, the motion path will not scale when the lock icon is resized.

Profit Icon (Stacking Bills)

A growing stack of currency represents profit or other financial gain (also in the Acme presentation).

The bill is constructed from Autoshapes:bill1

Next apply a 3d Rotation/Perspective Relaxed to the group and add a few points of depth to the outer rectangle. Adjust the Lighting angle to get the right color:


Since the dollar sign and the depth are measured in points, the bill will not scale well – convert the image to a png.

Now scale and stack the bills:bill3

The animation is Enter/Descend, bottom bill first:


You can convert this icon to represent to loss of cash by using Exit/Ascend animation, top bill first.

Productivity Icon (Gears)

There’s more than you want to know about animating gears in PowerPoint here.

Success/Accuracy Icon (Target and Arrow)

Here’s how this one looks:

The trick is to build the target in two pieces and animate the arrow so that it lands in front of one piece and behind the other.

The target half is constructed from standard Autoshapes (Block Arcs and Pies); duplicate the first half and rotate it to form the second half:


The arrow is similar (Chevron, Rectangle and Triangle):arrow

Group each half of the target and arrange them with the arrow like this; set the ordering so that the left half of the target is in front of the arrow and the arrow is in front of the right half:


Apply Enter/Fade and a motion path to complete the animation.  Use the technique discussed under the Security icon (above) to determine the end point of the motion path.

Data/Document Storage Icon (File Folder)

This icon is the usual file folder but animated with a document being stored in the folder:

The folder consists of the front and the back (not grouped) and the document is a Folded Corner shape with rectangles to suggest text lines:folder1

Here are the pieces with color:folder2

This is the animation path:folder3

The document is behind the front of the folder and in front of the back piece.  The animation path was created by selecting the Arc Up built-in motion path and then editing the points to the desired shape. A 90 degree Clockwise Spin occurs with the motion path.  Here’s what the animation pane looks like:folder4


This post has demonstrated four animated icons; I plan additional posts in this series.  If you have particular icons you would like to see or if you want a PowerPoint file containing the icons discussed in this post, use the form below to contact me and reference “animated icons:”

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