The Common Craft Blog

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

The War on Drugs Explained with Dragons

Posted by: leelefever on September 16, 2014- 12:23pm


Categories: abstraction, Art of Explanation, drugs, explainer tip, Explanation, vox

One of the tools we use in creating explainer videos is abstraction.  We look for opportunities to take the ideas that we want to explain out of their normal circumstance and put them into a new world. An example is our video that explains social media. It's a big analogy about ice cream.  Instead of talking about the details of tools and use cases, we showed what happens when everyone can make their own flavors. 

By abstracting an idea, we work to free it of all the details, biases and baggage that comes with the real world situation. Instead, we use symbols, metaphors and analogies to relate higher level ideas. It's these idea that have the power to ceate understanding.  Once understanding is in place, then the details make more sense. 

Vox pointed me to a video that was sponsored by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that is a great example of abstraction. Rather than using real world examples, they use a fictional story about how a society dealt with a dragon called Drugo. The video is called The War on Drugo.  Watch:

Reading in email? Watch the video here.

The next time you're struggling to make an idea easy to understand, consider the power of abstraction. Look for ways to take the big ideas out of the real world and put them in a world that highlights them without all the baggage. 

This post is based on a more comprehensive article I wrote called Welcome to the Next Golden Age of Animated GIFs.

Animated GIFs are fascinating. These silent, looping, video-like experiences are popping up all over the web, much like they did in the 90s. But this time, it's different. Animated GIFs can now be created by anyone and we're seeing them used in new and interesting ways. 

You've probably seen animated GIFs used for entertainment or highlights: 


But have you considered how animated GIFs can be used for communication and explanation?  Consider the example below by John Reid which explains pi:


Or this one by NickolayS that explains how a sewing machine works:

The examples above illustrate that the animated GIF format has real power when it comes to communication. Part of the reason is the GIF format is just as shareable as any digital image. Unlike online video, they work almost anywhere an image can be displayed. No plug-ins, no device restrictions, no worries.


I've been experimenting with creating my own animated GIFs using PowerPoint and screencasting software.  You might have seen them at work in the Common Craft Soccer GuideI call them ExplainerGIFs. Like an explainer video, it's an animated GIF that is designed to make an idea understandable. Below is a simple example that explains the water cycle:

You Can Make Animated GIFs

What I've learned is that these animated GIFs are quite easy to create - and I want to show you how. This fall I will be sharing everything I've learned about creating ExplainerGIFs using simple and affordable tools. If you'd like to be notified when it's ready, sign up for a notification at

Here are some examples of what's possible:

Animated Venn Diagrams:

Animated Charts and Graphs

Animated Processes and Flows

Animated Conversations and People

Learn more and sign up for notifications at  

To learn more about the evolution of animated GIFs, read The Next Golden Age of Animated GIFs.

Our new video explains blended learning in under 2.5 minutes. See the highlights below:

Watch it now

About this video:

This video follows the story of a teacher who discovers blended learning and incorporates it into his teaching. It teaches:

  • A basic definition of blended learning
  • How the Internet has impacted teaching options
  • The role of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in blended learning
  • How blended learning can change how classroom time is used
  • What factors can ensure success
  • Why blended learning matters
This video was suggested by Common Craft members and is designed with teachers and faculty in mind. 

Common Craft Cut-outs: Now Available Individually

Posted by: leelefever on August 12, 2014- 4:36pm


Categories: Cut-Outs, cut-outs, ecommerce, shopping, visuals

Visuals play an important role in how we communicate, but nice looking digital images can be a pain to find or create. That's a big reason we offer Common Craft Cut-outs - to provide a library of over 1,600 downloadable images that can be used in projects like presentations, blog posts and videos.

Until recently, our Cut-outs were only available through Common Craft membership (starting at $49 per year). Today, all Cut-outs are also available individually.

Common Craft Cut-outs

High resolution PNG images are $0.99 and EPS vectors graphics are $1.49.  

Just click on Cut-outs in the library, add them to the shopping cart and they'll be available for download immediately after purchase. And, as a bonus, this type of license never expires. Please note that this option is only for use by individuals - organizational use requires membership (contact us)

Want to see Cut-outs in action?

The video below by the City of Carlsbad, CA does a great job of using Cut-outs along with live-action footage to explain the process of starting a home-based businesses.