Intense development of computer technology has taken place in the last several decades made it possible to cartographically present variability of phenomena in a dynamic way. As a result of using animation techniques in cartography there appeared new methods of presentation of changes, referred to as direct. Considering the character of the relation between display time and real time, two basic types of animated maps have been distinguished: temporal and non-temporal. Other criteria of classifying animation are the presence and level of interactivity and the technical criteria of production.
Regardless of the applied classification, perception of the contents of animated maps is one of the main issues, since using animation leads to a significant cognitive load specific for dynamic methods. Fast sequence of data and its quick disappearance can result in omission of some information because in the case of animated maps there is a higher risk of exceeding perception potential of users than in the case of static maps.
Higher efficiency of animated map perception can be achieved by applying methods of cognitive overload reduction determined through experimental research. The most important of them are: using control tools, directing attention with dynamically blinking lights, locating connected objects close to one another, using sound, adapting generalization level to the characteristics of moving images and accounting for the age and experience of map users.
Among more sophisticated solutions are such elements as so-called decay and a combination of static and animated map features in the form of semi-static animations.
Advancements in computer technology that have occurred in recent decades have enabled an intensive development in cartographic methods for direct representation of phenomena dynamics. Even with the appearance of ever more advanced technical solutions, the theoretical basis still needs supplementing. The previous cartographic literature emphasises the importance of congruence and isomorphism principles preservation that aims at increasing the effectiveness of dynamic displays. Nevertheless, it is frequently the case that discontinuous phenomena are depicted with the use of smooth transitions. For this reason, it is vital that experimental research should lead to defining which representation methods are appropriate for a given type of content. Our study was focused on the cartographic design of scene transitions in animated maps. Two main conclusions of the research indicate that 1) mode of transition influences the interpretation of the content of cartographic animation depicting discrete changes, 2) maps executed in a smooth mode demonstrate lower effectiveness when compared with animations using an abrupt and abrupt with decay effect transitions.