I’m sure you know a friend or relative who has strongly-held opinions about a subject and is convinced that their position is right. But when asked about specifics, it becomes clear that they lack a basic understanding of the working parts that back-up that position. A recent article by Tania Lombrozo, PhD., a cognitive scientist at UC Berkeley, highlights what causes these extreme positions and what can be done to moderate them. Lombrozo’s article is based on a recent paper by psychologist... Continue Reading
We hear a lot about design these days. Apple products are probably the most popular examples. The idea is that Apple became one of the most valuable companies in the world, in part, because they focus on the design of their products. But what does that mean, really? What do organizations who focus on design do differently? Recently the TV show 60 Minutes featured the design company IDEO, which was founded by David Kelley. At multiple points in the interview, Kelley mentions an idea that... Continue Reading
Think for just a minute about the skills you use every day at work. Maybe you’re a designer or engineer who had specialized training and tools. Maybe you’re an executive who has a talent for building teams. Or maybe you’re a Mom or Dad who works to help your child understand the world. No matter what you do for work, you are an explainer. Part of your job is helping others understand ideas - it’s a fundamental part of being a professional. We explain ideas every day - we just never think... Continue Reading
Joe Hanson at Itsoktobesmart.com shared this video and it made me laugh. A perfect satire of highly academic explanations.
Kottke reminded me this morning about this mid-century video that explains, very clearly, how a differential gear works in automobiles. Watch: Email readers can watch here. Notice how the video starts with a scene that everyone can grasp before going into more technical information. They focus on "why" before "how". The simple model they use to explain the mechanism is a great example of simplification. The "noise" of the actual gear is removed so the instructor can focus on the big ideas. A... Continue Reading
The hand-drawn visuals from our videos, what we call "Cut-outs", are now available to all Common Craft members. They are colorful, downloadable images for use in your presentations, videos and explanation projects. Cut-outs are organized into themes like people, workplace, transportation, technology, etc. We currently provide over 800 images and add more sets on a regular basis. Examples of a few themes: Our goal is to help you create your own explanations. But that's not all. We're... Continue Reading
Sachi and I are heading down to Austin, Texas for the SXSW Interactive Festival, March 7-12. After taking a few years off, we're excited to be heading back. I'm going to be doing a short "Future 15" talk on Monday, March 11th at 4pm about the Art of Explanation in Room 616AB. I know a Monday afternoon time is tough, but I would be honored if you could attend.
We're excited to have VeracityColab as a member of the Common Craft Explainer Network. VeracityColab's fast-paced and stylish explainer videos have helped them become a top producer. You may recognize this national ad they produced with LegalZoom. Charlie Matz and his team combine a ton of creativity with upbeat and inspirational messaging. Check out their portfolio or recent videos for the Apex Conference or Pear Sports. I've included a couple of other examples below that capture the company... Continue Reading
In the past year or so, the website Reddit has become one of favorite places to visit on the Web because of its ability to find, highlight and discuss the most amazing and interesting things on the Web. Members or "Redditors" submit links and the community votes up the best content. From time-to-time a new “sub-reddit” (kind of like a discussion forum) appears around a very narrow theme that grabs attention. One that caught my eye (wouldn’t you know it) is about explanation. But this example... Continue Reading
Step 1. Forget about your audience’s needs. Their needs don’t matter. Your job isn’t to help them, it’s to make yourself look smart. This is all about you. Step 2. Make tons of assumptions. Assume everyone in the room knows exactly what you know or more. Find ways to save time by skipping the big picture and context. Head straight for the details. Step 3. Use lots of jargon and unfamiliar words. Since everyone in the room knows what you know, you can feel free to be loquacious in your... Continue Reading