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We can help you become an explanation specialist.

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Start your life as an explainer with Common Craft Membership. Prices start at just $49 per year. It provides:


Make your presentation or video remarkable with 800+ digital images in Common Craft Style, plus Know-How resources for using them.

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Ready-made Videos:

Educate others with 50+ ready-made video explanations that you can embed on your website or download for offline use.

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We Wrote the Book on Explanation

The Art of Explanation

A book by Lee LeFever

The Art of Explanation will help you become an explainer.

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The Explainer Network

Our network of custom video producers can create short, animated videos that make your product or service easier to understand.

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The Common Craft Blog

This blog is where we announce new videos & talk about the power of explanation & the change it can create. 

The Perils of Explaining Politics

Posted by: leelefever on January 16, 2014- 9:56am


Categories: buzzfeed, explainer, pizza, politics, video

In the US, it's painfully obvious that political debates have become more distinctly partisan in recent years. Nearly every event or message can be seen as favoring one side over the other. This represents a real challenge for journalists and there is a lot of debate about the role of balance in the news. 

It's no different for explainers. If we want to increase understanding for everyone, we must present information in a form that avoids political persuasion. This means taking partisanship out of the equation and finding ways to explain ideas that focus not on politics, but meaning. Only by doing this can an idea teach its full potential.

This was our challenge with the video on Electing a US President. We spent a lot of time making sure that our colors, words and visuals did not appear to favor one side. That's why we chose to represent the process with three parties appearing as circles, triangles and squares.  

Buzzfeed recently published a short video that uses a similar approach. It's about redistricting in US states and how different states approach the process. For visuals, they use pizza. Check it out: 

Reading in email? Watch it here.

We just released a new video that explains Digital Literacy in about 3 minutes. It was the most requested title by Common Craft members. 

About the video: Literacy comes in many forms. As the adoption of computers, mobile devices and the Internet has grown, digital literacy has become more important than ever. This video will help your audience understand the potential of digital literacy in our societies.  
It teaches:
  • Why literacy matters
  • The basic ideas of digital literacy
  • Why digital literacy is becoming a requirement 
  • How digital literacy impacts all parts of life
  • The potential of working towards digital literacy in societies
We’re quite fond of this video, partly because we are such big believers in the power of digital literacy. In fact, a big goal of our work is to increase digital literacy by explaining technology in an understandable way.
More From The Common Craft Blog

Lessons on Visualizing Complex Ideas

Posted by: leelefever on December 18, 2013- 12:50pm


Categories: animation, Art of Explanation, production, teded, video, visualization

A good primer by Ted-Ed on the process of turning a complex idea into visuals that can be used in an animated explainer video.  

Reading in email? Watch the video here. 

While the major points are great, I think it leaves out the creativity and complexity involved in producing the visuals themselves. It's a huge barrier for DIY video creators because it often requires expensive programs and extensive know-how. That's why we're fans (and partners) of GoAnimate, which provides tons of ready-made visuals and simple tools for animating them, including Common Craft Cut-outs. 

Since I was young, I've wondered about pain relievers and how they work. Thankfully Richard Byrne over at FreeTechForTeachers pointed me to this awesome animated explanation that's part of the TED-Ed series of videos. 

A few things to notice about this video, from the explainer perspective:

The First Half of the Video is Mostly Context

It starts with an easy first step - everyone knows the discomfort of pain - it makes you want to do something to relieve it. No viewer would disagree or lose confidence with the first couple of points. Next it answers questions like - why should I care about pain?  What role does pain play in our lives? Then it does a good (and quite technical) job of explaining what happens inside your body that enables you to feel pain. 

Let's look at the big picture for a moment. The video is called "How Do Pain Relievers Work?" Two full of minutes of video pass before pain relief is even mentioned. That's close to half the video focused on building context and agreement. This creates a foundation for the more specific, pertinent points about pain relievers.  Without taking the time for context, the other points may not be as understandable.

The Explanation Lesson:

The next time you're working to explain an complex idea, it may seem logical to head straight for the ideas you need to explain. In this example, it's pain relievers. Instead, I encourage you to take a step back and think about building a foundation for the ideas. Make the first couple of points easy to understand and answer questions like "Why should I care?" or "Why does this matter?"  Talk about the forest first, then the trees. By building context, you'll give the audience a way to make sense of the points that are the real focus of your explanation. 

The video above was based on a lesson by George Zaidan. The animation was produced by Augenblick Studios.