The Common Craft Blog

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

Learn How BBC Makes 3 Minute Explainer Videos

Posted by: leelefever on April 2, 2014- 10:34am


Categories: bbc, Explainer Tip, explainer video, Explanation

I'm so impressed. The BBC is now producing Explainer videos and one of the producers they've used, After the Floodtook the time to explain their process in video form:

The video above is from a blog post with much more information about scripting, storyboarding and production

The BBC and After The Flood obviously have high standards, but don't let their technical focus discourage you. You can make an explainer videos for your team, product, students or classroom without having to worry about an audience of millions. 

Many of the points in the video are true in any context. A couple of strong points:

With a running time of just three minutes, an Explainer video needs to get its point across very efficiently. It’s impossible to cover all the ground in a particular area, so you need to focus on a story ‘hook’ that is fundamental, understandable and repeatable. Examples from previous Explainer videos include: ‘The stars are us and we are the stars’ and ‘The Titanic was unlucky, not doomed’. This message should be carried throughout the script and throughout the choice of visual elements.

On three big elements of explainers:
Your story idea will have to accommodate three distinct layers of information, and it’s worth identifying these at an early stage:
  • Primary info: the core material in question (e.g. the human circulatory system)
  • Secondary info: required for explanation (e.g. the role of oxygen in the blood)
  • Tertiary info: signposts that lead to related topics (e.g. exercise and cardiovascular health)

 Read the whole article.

The Art of Explanation has been out for about 1.5 years now and it's been exciting to see how it has made it's way around the world. The book has now been translated into 6 languages (including 2 versions of Chinese).  A Russian version is forthcoming. 

Top row:  Korean, Hungarian, Simplified Chinese Bottom Row: Japanese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese.

Art of Explanation Translations

It's fascinating to see the book in other languages and consider what goes into the design. For example, the western translations in Hungarian and Spanish are similar in design to the actual book, with Common Craft Style artwork and colors. The design of the Asian versions vary wildly from the original. The Japanese and Traditional Chinese versions read with pages turning to the right (opposite of western books) with vertical rows of text.

Art of Explanation Japanese Version

If you've read one of the translated versions, I'd love to know what you think!

Our new video was the most requested by members and explains Primary and Secondary Sources in research (2.5 minutes).


About this video:

When researching, there are two main types of information sources: primary and secondary sources. Understanding the difference between them and how to use them can help make your projects more thorough and accurate.
What it Teaches:
This video looks back at a big event in history: The Great Storm (England, 1703). It asks the question - how do we know what we know about this storm? This question is answered by explaining primary and secondary sources. It teaches:
  • Why sources matter in establishing facts and information
  • What represents a primary source and how to use them
  • Why primary sources may present an incomplete picture
  • What represents a secondary source
  • How primary and secondary sources may contribute to the best understanding

The Cut-out Library Now Contains over 1500 Cut-outs!

Our library of "Common Craft Style" Cut-outs continues to grow and search is the best way to find what you need. Give it a try.
Add Cut-outs to presentations, documents, videos and more. They are designed to make your media more visually compelling.
Here's a hint - you can search by color to find characters that match. For example, here are all the "blue" Cut-outs.  

Antidotes for Information Overload

Posted by: leelefever on March 20, 2014- 1:30pm


Categories: Art of Explanation, article, data, Einstein, freud, research, Speaking

Later this spring I will be speaking at an event for institutional researchers called the AIR Forum ("AIR" is the Association for Institutional Research). In speaking with the organizers, I've learned that the audience is very data-oriented and sometimes find it difficult to make their findings understandable to others. It will be my challenge to help them become better explainers. 

In preparation for the event, I wrote an article that was recently published in their newsletter that focuses on antidotes for information overload. 

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

On the diminishing returns of more data:

From the perspective of a researcher, the truth is in the data. By sharing the details of the data and accounting for exceptions and confounders, for example, researchers can present accurate and useful information that stands up to the questions and analyses of their peers.
Within the insulated world of research, this can work and can be rewarded. But outside of the research world, a different perspective is required. The audience is typically not in a position to poke holes in your assumptions. They don’t necessarily care about the exceptions. They only want to understand why they should care. Details won’t help this audience.
Ask yourself this question when you’re communicating data: Is this information for my peers or for another audience? If it’s another audience, you must switch gears and realize that more details and data come with diminishing returns. Different audiences have different needs.

On the imprecise, but effective nature of analogies:

Sigmund Freud famously said, “It is true, analogies decide nothing, but they make one feel more at home.” I love that quote because it recognizes the inherent problem with analogies—they are imprecise. It is rarely possible to find an analogy that stands up to the impeccable standards of many researchers. But are they useful and powerful in relating ideas? I think so.
Consider some of the great scientific discoveries, like Einstein’s theory of relativity. In my experience, there are two ways to understand it. The first is to have an education in physics. With the proper training, we can see the theory’s details at work. For physicists, this is likely the most powerful way to understand it. But everyone else requires something different—the details don’t work.
Thankfully, Einstein often used an analogy that provided a layperson an imprecise, yet useful way to see the big picture of relativity. The most famous is likely the train analogy, where relativity and simultaneous events are explained using people, lightning, and trains—all real and familiar things. This provides a way for non-physicists to develop a basic, yet imprecise understanding that could lead to more learning.
While you may not need to explain relativity, you may find that simple, familiar examples and analogies can be used to help your audience see why data matter and why they should care.  

Read the entire article here.

Do you have ideas for avoiding information overload? Leave comment - we'd love to hear from you...