The papers in this themed issue have investigated methods to make animations more effective. The purpose of this paper is to discuss each of the seven empirical papers. The discussion focuses on how they dealt with cognitive load during instruction and problem solving. Critical observations are made on each paper and avenues for future research are proposed. From the overall collection of papers a number of key results are identified and used as a basis for recommending principles for developing effective instructional animations. Lastly, a number of design issues are discussed in the context of enhancing future research in this field. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.