Using GIFs As A Tool For Recall


Anyone who is on social media will know how prevalent a form of communication gifs are among users. They have become a part of internet culture and our daily digital lives. So, why has it taken us so long to harness their power and popularity to create mini learning opportunities? 

We’ll look at some of the advantages of using gifs to stimulate recall, the science behind their usefulness, how to go about creating one, and list some resources if you would like to explore using gifs in the learning environment.

Illustrator Credit: Tomaz Walentz


  • Gifs can be made relatively quickly, with little to no budget. A quick search on Giphy, the world’s largest gif search engine, can cut the creation time down significantly if you are able to find a premade gif that supports your message.
  • People prefer gifs over static images because they create a sense of social interaction, leading to increased engagement. Add links to additional training material for further learning.
  • You can preload learners with information prior to attending a class or use a gif campaign as a refresher of a training session’s main points.
  • Gifs are a good option when the process or concept dictates that text would be too long or confusing, and video would require too much production time. 


By following the principles of the psychology of learning and employing various encoding practices, you can create engaging learning that users can more easily recall and put into use. These are some of the different encoding practices that gifs can provide:

  • Visual Encoding

Visual information gets filtered into the working memory before being encoded into long-term memory. This type of encoding practice is used in many memory techniques and allows us to recall things we have seen more easily than what we have read or heard. Gifs are visual and, therefore, a more easily remembered type of information. 

  • Semantic Encoding

We tend to remember the meaning of things as opposed to the sound or vision associated with it. Semantic encoding connects meaning to something and allows that associated meaning to get stored in the long-term memory. Mnemonics is a well-known aid of semantic encoding and could easily be presented in a gif format. 

A gif campaign could also utilize another aid in semantic encoding, known as chunking. Chunking is when large pieces of information get broken down into smaller, organized bits of information that are more easily managed by the brain. These smaller pieces of content can be built upon to learn complex processes or concepts. 

  • Spaced Repetition

This does not mean the user is just playing the gif over and over once it is received; it means that the user is repeatedly being sent the gif at spaced intervals. This process allows you to leverage a memory phenomenon known as the spacing effect, which outlines how our brains learn more effectively if we space out our learning time. Sending out a learning gif once a week or every few days helps solidify the content presented as a memory, which can then be recalled and utilized. 


Step 1. Determine the content.
Select one critically important piece that would be beneficial to the user. If the process or idea is composed of several components, you can create a gif campaign.

Step 2. Define the visuals.
Create or search for a gif that is simple and tells the story or feeling you are trying to convey. Incorporate the content into the gif.

Step 3. Build the gif.
Incorporate the content into the gif you created or located. 

Step 4. Disperse the gif.
Share gifs via email, Teams, or whatever communication system your company has set up.


  • SnagIt or similar screen capture programs
  • Video option on mobile devices
  • Giphy Maker
  • GipX
  • Giphy Cam

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