I've recently (in the past year and a half) entered the freelance world, and the majority of high budget commissions I've received and that I've seen passed around the internet are from nonfiction sources—places like The School of Life, Ted-Ed, various news outlets, etc. The internet is awash in this genre of content, but I don't see a lot of discussion surrounding the process (or even celebrating the outcome, apart from the occasional Vimeo Staff Pick).
I think there are a few hurdles specific to this type of content. First of all, my animation education was focused on technique fundamentals—how to animate, storyboard, design characters, etc. Nonfiction animation, though, seems more related to editorial illustration, in that there's a lot of conceiving of visual metaphors. But (and it probably goes without saying) animating a cohesive series of visual metaphors is MUCH more time-consuming than conceiving a single editorial illustration.
Budget and time also constrain output. The School of Life gives animators eight weeks to produce about five minutes of animation—how do people manage that? How do you make an animation that's easy to make but still interesting to look at? Which shortcuts are necessary, and which are bypassable?
I'm curious to hear other people's processes! The best nonfiction animations always look and feel so effortless to produce, but I know this cannot be the case.